Deepwater Horizon Review

Deepwater Horizon
  • Directing9
  • Writing8
  • Acting8.5

Deepwater Horizon even-handedly tackles greed and heroics in a disaster movie that's both emotional and large-scaled. This is Peter Berg's most lean and well-rounded film yet.


Deepwater Horizon just might be Peter Berg‘s best film. It’s definitely his leanest and most impactful, capturing the based-on-a-true-story tale of the largest oil spill in U.S. history with intensity in a way that captures both the raw emotion and the large-scaled disaster.

Deepwater Horizon follows the crew of the offshore drilling rig as they experience first-hand an explosion that leads to largest oil spill in U.S. history. Everyday technician Mike Williams (Mark Wahlberg) attempts to survive and help save the lives of various crew members, including Jimmy Harrell (Kurt Russell), Andrea Fleytas (Gina Rodriguez) and Vidrine (John Malkovich).

Director Peter Berg is no stranger to disaster films/big-budgeted action spectacles, having directed Battleship and even the recent war film Lone Survivor (which Wahlberg starred in). Berg has been sometimes accused of being a less intense/less flashy version of Michael Bay, but Deepwater Horizon is going to change that, because Berg has managed to not only outdo Bay in the explosions-department, but he’s also managed to infuse an honestly great story that’s both emotional and authentic.

Deepwater Horizon works because of Berg’s ability to harness all of his abilities and talents and completely synchronize them with his cast, which features heavy hitters like Kurt Russell and John Malkovich, not to mention Kate Hudson (briefly), Mark Wahlberg, Dylan O’Brien and Gina Rodriguez.

Deepwater Horizon is definitely a Wahlberg film and finally he manages to deliver a performance that’s not typical-Wahlberg goofy or slightly confusing. Here, he’s very blue collar, yet he doesn’t feel like a square screw trying to get put into a circular hole. Instead, Wahlberg embodies the everyday man trying to make an honest living so that he can go home to his wife and daughter and he does it with an admirable amount of honesty and compassion.

Watching Wahlberg’s Mike Williams genuinely care about the entire crew and their well-being is a nice change and a reminder that not everyone involved in the oil-drilling business is a greedy piece of shit.

Berg doesn’t forget that aspect though and instead literally defines the BP reps as money-hungry asshats with thick accents and little patience. The entire situation could have clearly been avoided had the proper maintenance been done, yet Berg’s film highlights just how little the BP guys cared about the safety of the crew and the rig itself and just how much they wanted to fatten their pockets and move onto the next endless hole from which they can pull out money.

I was worried going in that Deepwater Horizon would focus entirely on the heroics of Mike and his fellow crew mates, not to mention the assist of the military and nearby boats, while not focusing on the catastrophic damage of the spill itself, yet Deepwater Horizon openly discusses how preventable the entire ordeal was and how it is the largest oil spill in U.S. history.

Deepwater Horizon also goes one step further and details the lives lost during the tragic event and it does it in way that’s respectful and eye-opening.

Everything works so smoothly because Berg patiently structures the first half of the film by focusing solely on his characters, the rig itself and how every single piece of the film is a moving part that must function with the rest in order for a successful film. Much like the gears and knobs on the rig, each character serves great importance to the film and ensuring a well-balanced story is properly executed.

Kurt Russell’s Jimmy is the hard ass lead that cares only about the safety of those around him, despite the sweaty BP reps begging him to start drilling for oil. While on the other side there’s John Malkovich‘s Vidrine that only cares about sucking up the oil and getting BP back on schedule.

Moving down the cast list lands us with Dylan O’Brien‘s Caleb — who’s another young innocent worker just trying to pay the bills.

Berg wisely keeps Kate Hudson‘s character to a minimum, despite her performance being more than adequate. She plays the wife of Mike Williams and she does a fine job providing that emotional backbone to Mike’s character, despite appearing in the film for only a few short minutes at a time.

All of the characters are meant to help tell the larger story, which is that of the actual explosion of the rig and the eventual rescue of various crew members.

This is where Berg gives Bay a stiff run for his money. The explosions in Deepwater Horizon are absolutely epic, shot with an eye for detail and major damage, both emotionally and physically.

Each and every action sequence is made all the better because of the fact that Berg has established his characters and gave them importance. As an audience member you will find yourself sitting uneasy as the explosions start up, despite your hunger for a disaster film. There’s just something about knowing that this is based on a true story that’ll make you almost feel guilty for admiring the effects and how much time and effort went into creating them.

Berg’s ability behind the lens has never been so well-constructed and concise. Deepwater Horizon barely clocks in at over an hour and a half, yet it feels like it has the same amount of action as a two-and-a-half-hour Michael Bay disasterpiece.

I did not think an IMAX screen was going to increase this film’s quality all that much, yet I was beyond amazed by how large everything looked and felt and how much the sound had a factor. The explosions are definitely Earth-rattling and made that much more real on a proper IMAX setup.

Deepwater Horizon smartly and even-handedly tackles greed and heroics in a way that’s insightful, emotional and action-packed. Those looking for a disaster film with actual heart and a story are going to be very pleased with the film. Mark Wahlberg and Kurt Russell lead a film that honestly has no bad performances and director Peter Berg has somehow blended together his eye for flashy and rather large-scaled storytelling with a heartfelt true story that’s both tragic and eye-opening. See this film as soon as you can and watch it on the largest and loudest screen possible.

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