By Laurie Coker
Few who watched the news about the huge oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, especially those affected by the disaster, will ever forget the catastrophe on the off-shore oil rig the Deepwater Horizon. Director Peter Berg (Lone Survivor) gives viewers a taut, tense tale of that fateful day when eleven men lost their lives and millions of gallons of oil flowed into the Gulf, destroying wildlife and businesses in its wake. Deepwater Horizon stars Kurt Russell, Mark Walberg, Goldie Hawn and John Malkovich and in its one hour and forty-five minute run time, it maintains a rapidly, intense story-driven pace.
The worst oil-spill disaster in U.S. history occurred in April of 2010, surpassing the Santa Barbara and the Exxon Valdez spills. Aboard the rig were 126 people working for two different companies – Transocean and its rig crew and executives from BP Oil. Russell plays Mr. Jimmy the head of the Transunion crew and the man in charge of the massive floating oil field, and Walberg plays Mike Williams, the fix-it man for Deepwater. Malcovich does a smarmy turn as PB exec Vidrine with a painfully thick Cajun accent, and Hawn has minimal, but notable screen time as Felicia, Williams’ wife. Truthfully, characters are not the focal point, though Williams’ is the hub. It is the rig, and the warnings, the tests the failed cement and the disaster that ensued as a result of negligence and greed, that drive this story and it is Berg’s attention to detail, control and realism that make it all work.
The story itself unfolded on news programs across the globe, but Berg takes viewers onto Deepwater Horizon and through the events of the day. He wastes almost no time on character development, relying instead on the talented seasoned cast, and he wastes no time on getting to the tragedy itself. From the first moments on board, the action builds from the simmer of tangible tension between Vidrine and Mr. Jimmy to the final deadly explosion as the crew struggles to escape the fiery inferno.
Like Lone Survivor, Deepwater Horizon feels as real as one can get in a biopic film. While Matthew Michael Carnahan and Matthew Sand’s script doesn’t skirt around the blame game and politics of big business, the story is not about that. It is about the event of that day and the lives lost. He pays honor to the men who died and those who lived (one woman included), sharing images and names and he offers up cringe-worthy, teeth-clenching imagery throughout. Deepwater Horizon rated PG-13 earns an A-. Perhaps because of the different tales, Deep Water Horizon doesn’t have the same unadulterated terrifying moments of Lone Survivor, but it is emotionally powerful.