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Deepwater Horizon Review: Gripping & Fiery

By Julian Roman — September 23rd, 2016

Deepwater Horizon is a worthy film adaptation of events leading to the greatest ecological disaster in U.S. history. The initial characterizations are a bit hokey, but the pudding hits the fan full speed once tragedy strikes. Director Peter Berg pulls no punches in pointing the finger directly at British Petroleum, the London-based global oil giant that contracted the rig. Corporate greed trumped safety measures. Innocent men died. The Gulf of Mexico poisoned by two hundred million barrels of oil, an unprecedented spill. Deepwater Horizon is what happens when the bottom line is the only line.

Mark Wahlberg stars as Mike Williams, the chief electrical technician of Deepwater Horizon. He leaves his family for a three week stint on the rig, alongside his boss, Jimmy Harrell (Kurt Russell). Both men are employees of Trans Ocean, the company that owned the rig and were hired to dig the well. They arrive to find multiple systems malfunctioning. Forty-three days behind schedule, executives at BP have instructed their regional manager (John Malkovich) to complete the project as quickly as possible. Harrell's authority supersedes all. He orders immediate safety tests on the integrity of the well. On April 10, 2010, their worst fears were sadly realized.

The failure of the drill and ensuing explosions are absolutely riveting. Peter Berg captures hell with technical precision. The characters fight to save themselves, but are keenly aware of what's at stake. They feverishly attempt to cap the well in scene after scene of white-knuckle action. It is a fiery symphony of destruction. Mirroring the horror of the real life catastrophe. Berg has been around for decades as an actor and director. He takes his filmmaking acumen to a higher level with Deepwater Horizon.

Deepwater Horizon doesn't spend a lot of time explaining the technical jargon. I was not confused in the least, but some folks I saw it with sometimes got lost in the terminology. Pay attention folks. I think it's fairly evident what's happening and actually appreciate the fact that not everything is spoon fed to the audience. My issues with the plot had to do with how one-dimensional the characters are. Wahlberg is the blue collar hero. Russell sports a crew cut, barks orders. Kate Hudson is the crying wife at home. There's little depth as the focus is solidly on the rig's demise.

From Summit Entertainment, Deepwater Horizon is a captivating cinematic experience. The visual effects, sound design, and editing are first rate. Berg is spot on with the pacing as well. We don't see much superfluous activity. It adds to the realism that these poor people were staring death in the eyeballs while attempting to save the rig. Berg also uses his epilogue wisely, showing a good deal of actual footage. It reminds us that a heavy price was paid in blood and tears. Deepwater Horizon is highly recommended in IMAX.

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