October 6, 2016
Deepwater Horizon was an oil rig which drilled for British Petroleum (BP) in the Gulf of Mexico, just off the coast of Louisiana. Mike Williams (Mark Wahlberg) was the Chief Electrician of the rig, working under the leadership of rig foreman Mr. Jimmy Harrell (Kurt Russell). They note some technical questions about the rig, but were pressured to proceed with the drilling operation by their employer BP, as represented by Donald Vidrine (John Malkovich). On April 20, 2010, the Deepwater Horizon exploded into flames.
The first fifteen minutes were practically just about Mike Williams having breakfast and saying goodbye to his wife (Kate Hudson) and daughter. There were telling warning signs from the start (daughter's school project, magenta-colored neck tie, bird strike on their helicopter). Then when they were on the rig already, you knew there was trouble abrew. It was a tense (but very slow) build-up to the climactic explosion we all knew would happen. The last thirty minutes was about the crew scrambling to escape their floating inferno, and we wait and see who will survive.
These veteran actors can do their roles blindfolded already. We've seen Wahlberg do blue-collar roles in "The Fighter" and "Transformers: Age of Extinction." Russell must have felt like he was on the set of "Backdraft" again. Malkovich is being vintage Malkovich. One look at that perpetual sneer on his face, you know he is up to no good. They were good and reliable performers as would be expected. Gina Rodriguez stood out as Andrea Fleytas, the only female member of the mostly faceless male crew.
The centerpiece of this film is the rig explosion scene, which happens sometime just before the one-hour mark. It was really a spectacular sight to behold on the big screen. The mud and oil was forcefully gushing out like a geyser was already foretold of a much bigger impending doom. Director Peter Berg shot the major fire scene beginning from the bottom quickly going upward, as the flames exploded and engulfed the whole rig. That was an awesome scene.
A lot of the fire scenes showing the rig fall apart and the crew running around in the flames were shot in close-up, which did not work too well for me. These scenes became generic scenes you'd see in any other fire disaster movie. You would not recognize who was running where, which negatively affected the drama of the situations, in contrast with wider shot panoramic scenes.
The film as a whole was engaging to watch as a disaster drama, technical jargon (like blowout preventor, negative pressure test, bladder effect, kill lines) notwithstanding. Its message about corporate greed was loud and clear. However, the film never went beyond the disaster itself, as it lacked emotional depth and connection. Furthermore, those essential facts that the BP executives got off easy in court and that this massive oil spill caused a major environmental disaster were only relegated to sentences flashed on screen at the end. 6/10.