Peter Berg’s film about the Deepwater Horizon explosion almost entirely ignores the enormous environmental impact of the disaster, focusing instead on the build up to, and immediate human cost of, the event.
It’s a fair enough tack considering how the environmental impact was what the media focused on when it happened, and if the film’s goal was to humanise the people caught up in it, then it very much succeeds.
Berg has always displayed a knack for authentic portrayals of specialists in high-stakes fields and he establishes a nice “blue collar at sea” vibe amongst the characters here. Wahlberg is at ease and on auto-pilot as a heroic electrician, but it’s Kurt Russell and the generic background faces that help sell the reality of life aboard an oil rig. Gina Rodriguez, from TV’s Jane The Virgin, makes her presence felt as the rig’s helmswoman.
Berg is also able to effectively dramatise the drilling itself, and the film generates much tension from the visual portrayal of the massive forces at play under the water. When the explosive finalé arrives, it’s an impressively huge set-piece.
The film’s decision to consign the oil spill itself to a post-script title card doesn’t mean it’s lacking in righteous indignation: BP management, represented by an especially serpentine John Malkovich, are shown to be unequivocal in their favouring of money over safety.
Deepwater Horizon isn’t a life changer, but it’s an effective true-life thriller with an authentic weightiness to what’s on screen.
‘Deepwater Horizon’ Movie Times