By Jack Dignan
It was the biggest oil spill in US history. In April of 2010, an offshore drilling rig exploded, and the event was catastrophic. It was a tragic tale, and now, six years later, it's been put to film, directed by Peter Berg, the man behind Lone Survivor, Battleship and Friday Night Lights. The events that took place on the Deepwater Horizon that night are far from pleasant, and yet it's this emotional unpleasantness that makes it perfect for cinema, especially with Berg behind the camera. I absolutely loved Lone Survivor, and with Deepwater Horizon, which sees him once again teaming up with Mark Wahlberg, he manages to top it, creating what I would consider to be Berg's best film to date.
Mike Williams (Mark Wahlberg) is just your everyday, average guy, living happily with his wife Felicia (Kate Hudson) and his daughter Sydney (Stella Allen). He works on the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig, and this means he's got to travel out there for a few weeks to work, like always. Teaming up with his usual crew, Jimmy Harrell (Kurt Russell), Caleb Holloway (Dylan O'Brien) and Andrea Fleytas (Gina Rodriquez), everything should be going fine... Except everything that could go wrong does go wrong, and it isn't helping when BP employee Vadrine (John Malkovich) is insisting that they go forwards with their operations, wishing not to spend more money than they already have. So, they do. Everything goes ahead, and what follows is an intense, tear jerking tale of heroism.
Deepwater Horizon gets off to a slow start, taking the time to introduce all of the individual characters, create a sense of likability amongst the main players, and really just extend this story out into a feature length film. It's a slow burner, with pretty much every little detail thoroughly explained, but it ends up being worthwhile. It's successful in slowly drawing you in, putting all the pieces of the puzzle into place, all before picking up the puzzle and throwing it right in your face, as, once this film really gets going, it's hard to look away.
It's a character driven disaster movie, and everyone in this film felt like they had history. None of the character relationships, especially that between Wahlberg and Hudson, felt artificial, and it helped not only to make for an interesting dynamic, but also created authenticity. It felt like a grounded piece of cinema, and it gave the sense that these guys knew what they were talking about. Not going to lie, I didn't know what they were discussing half the time, but they sounded extremely confident, so I sure as hell believed them.
It's smart, powerful filmmaking, showcasing this story through clever writing, foreshadowing and suspense. Everything and everybody intertwines throughout, and all of them get involved in this story in one way or another. They all play important roles, and Berg gives them the screen time they deserve. Plus, his camera work and overall direction was excellent, allowing the suspense to slowly build up, and when the pay off comes, I was on the edge of my seat the entire time, tears constantly swelling in my eyes. Yes, this movie made me cry. If you thought Lone Survivor was emotional, nothing can prepare you for this.
I am a big Mark Wahlberg fan, and while I don't necessarily know whereabouts I would rank his Deepwater Horizon performance in his filmography just yet, it's certainly going to be pretty high. He's excellent, giving a performance that's deep, confident and emotional, and he achieved everything he was going for and more. In fact, the whole cast did, including the likes of Kurt Russell, who spends half of this film severely injured, and yet that elevated his performance to a whole other level. Gina Rodriquez and Dylan O'Brien also do admirable jobs in their roles, both giving a solid performance. And then there's John Malkovich, who plays a slime bag of a human being, and boy is he good at playing him.
Once disaster actually strikes, everything that follows is just pure cinematic bliss. It's a survival story, an action story and a disaster story, and the combination of the three results in some a-grade filmmaking. Every component of this movie just comes together perfectly to result in one of the best films of the year. The second half of this movie is absolutely insane, and it features some of the most heart wrenching sequences you will see all year, especially ones rather late into the film. In fact, the last 10 minutes of this movie is just constant emotion, and if you come out of the theatre with dry eyes, you're lying.
To sum up, Deepwater Horizon is a slow burner, but this slow pace is incredibly rewarding, as everything that follows the buildup is just pure cinematic bliss. It's a tear jerking, exciting and tension filled tale of heroism and survival, and everyone involved with this film is on the top of their game. You will cry. You should probably just accept that as fact.