FilmReview

Review: ‘Deepwater Horizon’ Well From Hell

Laura Cafasso ’18 / Emertainment Monthly Staff Writer

When one thinks of the BP Oil Spill, those Dawn cleaning detergent commercials may spring to mind. In the advertisements, the adorable ducklings are bathed and rid of the malevolent oil, leaving viewers feeling better inside. But, after seeing Deepwater Horizon, environmental campaigns temporarily slip away from immediate thought.

The film opens with ominous (but authentic) recorded testimony of Mike Williams, one of the head electricians, relaying what happened on April 20th, 2010. Mike Williams is played by Mark Walhberg, who can’t seem to shake his notorious Boston accent in order to produce a gritty, Southern twang. Felicia Williams (Kate Hudson in a severely understated role), manages to have a convincing drawl that makes the audience question Wahlberg’s commitment to genuine acting and the immersion into a character.

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Mark Wahlberg, Kate Hudson, and Stella Allen in Deepwater Horizon. Photo Credit: Lionsgate

Amidst glorious aerial views of the rig and the ocean, foreboding music drags the audience into a sense of escalating anxiety. When will it happen? The lead-in to the explosion lays the groundwork for the obvious tension between the rig workers and the BP bosses, inciting an age-old struggle of the blue-collars versus the corporate big-wigs. The cards are stacked against the BP suits from the beginning; in order to save money (being 43 days behind schedule and 50 million dollars over budget), they dismiss Schlumberger inspectors from conducting a test of the concrete retention.

Jimmy “Mr. Jimmy” Harrell (a fierce Kurt Russell) knows this spells disaster, but after authorizing several internal tests with no “mud” blow back, he goes back to his business. Donald Vidrine (a classically evil John Malkovich) is vindicated and BP slithers away from scrutiny. Vidrine and his henchmen start getting ready to rendezvous with their helicopters, while Mr. Jimmy receives a oil rig safety award for the seventh year in a row (the irony isn’t even comical at this point).

But Williams irks Vidrine by stating that 390 machines (10%) of the equipment on board is in desperate need of maintenance or replacement. He naively laughs, “every time I peel off a band-aid I find four more.” The entire crew, unknowingly, will need much more than band-aids in a few hours.

Mark Wahlberg and Dylan O’Brien in Deepwater Horizon. Photo Credit: Lionsgate

The jargon made it hard to follow the action at times (good thing the hard hats were labeled because even that got confusing), but it leaves you with a feeling to research and take notes, as if preparing for a science exam. Once disaster hits, it’s no surprise. The real surprise comes from the grisly, nauseating carnage. Think 127 hours and Band of Brothers, with a touch of Lone Survivor (perhaps because it’s the same director). The horrified gasping of the audience is enough to make you grimace and squirm.

Andrea Fleytas (Gina RodriguezJane the Virgin) and Caleb Holloway (Dylan O’ Brien) are much needed, youthful additions — since the remainder of the crew are less relatable for juvenile audiences. Their acting is equally fearless and riveting, sharing some of the toughest decisions and most gruesome encounters.

For the worst environmental disaster in United States history, the film certainly does the event justice. Wahlberg delivers a performance on par with The Fighter. It will leave you thinking of the bigger picture and the eleven lives that were lost in the preventable madness. Directed by Peter Berg (Lone Survivor), with solid writing by Matthew Sand (Ninja Assassin) and Matthew Michael Carnahan (World War Z), Deepwater Horizon devastates and leaves you demanding justice from BP.  

Overall Grade: A-

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