Sunday, 5 February 2017

Deepwater Horizon

In 2010, the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig exploded and caused the death of 11 workers. The blowout of oil that caused the explosion also created an enormous offshore oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico – considered the biggest accidental oil spill in the world, and the largest environmental disaster in US history. It was all over the news and seeped into our memories, so it was only a matter of time until Hollywood got its grubby mitts on the explosive tale. But this isn’t a disrespectful action thriller – this is a powerful drama and a moving tribute to the real people.

Directed by Lone Survivor’s Peter Berg, Deepwater Horizon is an ensemble film but mainly focuses on Mark Wahlberg. Wahlberg plays Mike Williams, an engineer on Deepwater Horizon who works closely with the rig supervisor Jimmy Harrell (Kurt Russell) and misses his wife (Kate Hudson) and child back home. When greedy BP company man Donald Vidrine (John Malkovich) pushes for progress without undertaking the necessary health and safety checks, it’s obvious that things are going to go wrong. Lives are lost, and blood (and oil) is spilled.

As I said in the introduction, Deepwater Horizon is a powerful and moving drama. These sorts of films usually shit all over the facts and focus entirely on blowing things up like a historical Michael Bay. The recent Nicolas Cage disaster film USS Indianapolis is a prime example, attempting to disguise a dreadful shark horror as a tribute to the victims of that disaster. But Deepwater Horizon is, surprisingly, an extremely powerful and respectful piece of work. The action is tastefully done, the characters are all given depth, the story isn’t sensationalised or glorified - but most importantly, the 11 fatalities all receive a tear-jerking tribute before the end credits.

Deepwater Horizon is an impeccably made film – the special effects are utterly breath-taking, and are incredibly immersive in their realism. I have always found films like this scarier than the average horror. Monsters, ghosts and zombies aren’t real. Disasters like this are. The film is very intense when the disaster strikes, and sometimes hard to watch. The deaths are harrowing – especially as they could’ve easily been avoided if the BP company men hadn’t pushed so hard for the drilling to go ahead despite refusing to do pre-drill checks. It’s reminiscent of Titanic, when J. Bruce Ismay pushed so hard for the Titanic to travel on despite warnings otherwise.

Deepwater Horizon’s ensemble cast are all worthy of praise here, too. Wahlberg offers an understated performance as an ordinary guy in extraordinary circumstances, while Russell steals the show as the brave supervisor who continues to offer his assistance even after his injuries become enough to put normal people into shock! And, as I’ve said before many times…Kurt Russell is love, Kurt Russell is life. Unusually, John Malkovich is the only divisive element in this film. I’m biased as a manic Malkovich fan – the man can do no wrong in my eyes - but I’ve read a lot of criticism of his Cajun accent here. While I thought he was brilliant (as always) and mastered the difficult accent, many viewers may not be quite so convinced. Still, John Malkovich is never truly bad. You know this. He’s Cyrus the god-damn Virus, after all.

It may come as a surprise to some people, but Deepwater Horizon is an absolutely fantastic film. The visuals, the handling of the subject, the cast – everything is superb. If a film like Titanic can get showered with Oscars, Deepwater Horizon deserves to walk away with a few gongs too. But at the end of the day, awards are irrelevant. Deepwater Horizon earns a high recommendation. Director Peter Berg’s next film is Patriot’s Day, a dramatization of the Boston bombing also starring Mark Wahlberg. If it’s anything like this, it would be one to watch.

Deepwater Horizon is overflowing with talent, breath-taking visual effects and thrills – but is also a powerful and poignant tribute to those affected by the disaster. 4/5.

Sam Love

Deepwater Horizon at CeX

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