Movie review: Action-thriller 'Deepwater Horizon' details day of the drilling rig disaster –

The Deepwater Horizon drilling rig, operated by BP, 41 miles off the Louisiana coast, exploded on April 20, 2010. Eleven workers were killed, and more than 140 million gallons of crude oil, from a well on the ocean floor, devastated the Gulf of Mexico, its wildlife and its shorelines. By mid-July, a cap stopped the leak, and by mid-September it was finally sealed. The massive cleanup and endless lawsuits filed against BP were still to come.
Peter Berg’s film “Deepwater Horizon” isn’t the story of the spill and the attempts to make things right. It isn’t a movie that’s aimed at the environmentalists among us. It’s a taut and tense action-thriller about what happened on the rig on the day of the explosion.
The politics of the situation are front and center, and the script puts full blame on the bean counters at BP, strongly suggesting that they were more concerned with the costs of operating the rig, and getting as much oil (and money) from it than they were with safety issues.
The film picks up on the morning of April 20, as crew members who had been away were returning for a three-week shift at the rig, among them Mike Williams (Mark Wahlberg), Andrea Fleytas (Gina Rodriguez), and the crew chief Jimmy Harrell (Kurt Russell). There were also BP muckamucks out there, including site leader Donald Vidrine (John Malkovich), one of those responsible for some very bad decisions.
Berg, who has kept up a steady acting career with mostly small roles, and a major part on “Chicago Hope,” has also had a successful run at directing features films (“Friday Night Lights” “Hancock” “Lone Survivor”), and he’s adept at maintaining a balance that reveals what makes his characters tick and placing them in tense situations.
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“Deepwater Horizon” begins with a happy family scene of Mike Williams and his wife (Kate Hudson) and daughter just before he heads off for the short chopper ride to the rig. The script soon turns to some funny chatter to focus on the camaraderie between the crew members (128 of them were out there that day), then to serious talk in the rig’s meeting room concerning ways to cut costs, then to the revelation that there are ongoing problems out there. Harrell, back for another shift, complains – again – that “the phone still doesn’t work.” There’s quiet antagonism between the stubborn Vidrine and the cautious Williams, who’s always ready to complain about the rig’s deficiencies.
Although a lot of the technical business of what was happening out there isn’t explained with enough clarity for those of us not in the oil industry, it’s easy to figure out that some people are not seeing eye to eye on certain important issues. Harrell insists to the executives that “the cement [testing] job was compromised.” But their only response is, “No, it wasn’t.”
By the time we’re hearing terms such as “blowout preventer,” “negative pressure test” and “annular failure” (no, those aren’t explained well enough, either), it’s becoming clear that the busy work with machines above the water and the natural problems taking shape below it are not going to result in a happy ending. The noises get loud, and the faces become concerned. One crew member says quietly, “We’ve got mud [in the line]” and moments later another one, much less quietly, says, “We’ve gotta pull out of here!”
By the time of a mayday call, the effects and stunts are spectacular, and the film erupts into pandemonium, and the scene on the rig, filled with fire, explosions, glass and steel, is reminiscent of a Romulan attack on the Enterprise, with people being thrown and blown all over the place.
Unfortunately the film loses momentum when it keeps cutting away to the forced drama of Kate Hudson, back at home, freaking out over news reports of the disaster. Berg should have stuck with what was happening offshore. He does, however, end the film effectively with emotional family reunions as survivors arrive back on land, and with a list of awful statistics from the spill at the closing credits.
— Ed Symkus covers movies for More Content Now.
Written by Matthew Michael Carnahan and Matthew Sand; directed by Peter Berg
With Mark Wahlberg, Kurt Russell, Gina Rodriguez, John Malkovich, Kate Hudson
Rated PG-13


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