Deepwater Horizon, Perfunctory drama that engages
Film: “Deepwater Horizon”; Director: Peter Berg; Cast: Mark Wahlberg, Kurt Russell, John Malkovich, Gina Rodriguez, Dylan O’Brien, Kate Hudson, Ethan Suplee, Trace Adkins, Brad Leland, Joe Chrest, James DuMont, Dave Maldonado, Douglas M. Griffin, Jeremy Sande; Rating: **1/2
A true story, based on the largest oil spill in US history that occurred on April 20, 2010, “Deepwater Horizon” is a disaster-action film about the blowout and explosion of the titular oil rig, off the coast of Louisiana in the Gulf of Mexico.
The incident was a man-made disaster that blew the lives of 11 rig-workers and poured five million barrels of oil at sea creating an environmental hazard. The environmental bit, however, is not touched upon in the film.
Instead, Director Peter Berg, who had earlier given us action films like “Rundown”, “Battle Ship” and “Lone Survivor”, gives us a sober and reverent film which is a technical spectacle with the right balance of emotion and destruction.
He, along with his screenwriters Matthew Michael Carnahan and Matthew Sand, takes great care to educate the audience about the science of drilling, the technology, the geography of the floating rig and explain exactly why things went awry, as they did that fateful night.
The plot follows Michael ‘Mike’ Williams (Mark Wahlberg) and his Superior Jimmy Harrell (Kurt Russell), employees of Transocean, who are responsible for the operations on the oil rig. As they land on “Deepwater Horizon”, they are the first to suspect that something is wrong. The workers assigned to pour the concrete foundation to keep the well stable were being sent home early without conducting a pressure test at the insistence of the British Petroleum liaison officer – Donald Vidrine (John Malkovich). What follows is a series of discussions packed with technicalities.
The first half of the film builds up the momentum with tension that is genuinely powerful for the inevitable to happen. Once the explosion takes place, the action that follows is suitably rousing as the rig resembles a scene of hell. Flames and heat consume the rig and escape seems nearly impossible. Also, there isn’t much of the plot left after the explosion, except for Mike stalking the interiors of the rig looking for injured survivors.
Mark Wahlberg as Mike is all charisma and he is just as convincing as an exemplary father and a devoted husband as an improvised hero of action.
He is aptly supported by Kurt Russel as his superior; John Malkovich as the antagonist Donald Vidrie – the executive of British Petroleum who commits the imprudence of putting pressure on his subordinates to start the operation even when there was evidence of danger; Gina Rodriguez, the only woman on the Transocean team who is forced by the superior to obey orders; and Kate Hudson as Mike’s distressed wife. They are all undoubtedly sincere in their performance.
The rest of the supporting cast are mostly one-dimensional characters and they perform with equal passion.
Visually, Enrique Chediak’s lens, in search of realism and concern for every detail, captures the intimidating structure of steel in the middle of the sea with aplomb. His extreme close-ups enhance the frantic mayhem, but do nothing to elevate the viewing experience. Similarly, his jerky frames mar the viewing experience.
The sound is well-designed to capture the ruggedness and resilience of the subject and it is astutely layered with the visuals by editors Gabriel Fleming and Colby Parker Jr.
Overall, the film is a respectful slice-of-drama that treats its subject with stiff-lipped seriousness.