Direction: Peter Berg
Actors: Mark Wahlberg, Kurt Russell
Rating: 3 / 5
It was one of the worst environmental disasters in US history. On April 20, 2010, a semi-submersible offshore drilling platform leased to British Petroleum exploded a few miles off the coast of Louisiana. The subsequent firestorm killed 11 crew members and caused a catastrophic oil spill.
Deepwater Horizon, which gets its name from the rig, is an apocalyptic docudrama based on a New York Times article about that catastrophe. Made on a whopping budget of $150 million, the film essentially mines maritime disaster tropes previously explored in such blockbusters as The Poseidon Adventure, The Perfect Storm and Titanic.
Director Peter Berg, who rose to fame with the Afghanistan-set combat drama Lone Survivor (2013), pursues several slapdash narrative threads but, to his credit, does manage to sustain credible tension for most of the film’s 105-minute duration.
The first half centres on the motley crew converging to take up their posts on the ill-fated rig. Besides the level-headed electronics engineer (Mark Wahlberg), there’s the paternalistic foreman (old-timer Kurt Russell) and a no-nonsense navigator (Gina Rodrigues).
Also on board is an executive from the oil company (John Malkovich, sufficiently slimy) who disregards the statutory safety provisions, thereby causing the devastating blowouts.
To the film’s detriment, it is replete with technical terminology, and the few scenes involving the engineer’s onshore wife (Kate Hudson) and their school-going daughter feel perfunctory.
But the action-oriented latter half recreates the danger, desperation and death of the disaster with terrifying impact.
The end credits include photographs of the eleven bravehearts who perished in the floating inferno. Ultimately, Deepwater Horizon serves both as a testament to their heroic sacrifice and a critique of the corporate greed that led to the unconscionable real-life tragedy.
Watch the trailer for Deepwater Horizon here