Late to the party, but playing catch-up now. Director Peter Berg is a talent, and I want to see more. I was very impressed by his previous release, 2013’s “Lone Survivor”, and I’d been hearing solid buzz for his latest, “Deepwater Horizon”. And it’s damn good. Mark Wahlberg is the star, as he was for Berg’s last (and the director’s upcoming film, “Patriots Day”, which is expected to be released before the end of 2016). Muse? Maybe. But, it’s working. And I’m really starting to appreciate this genre that Mr. Berg seems to be creating. These are very visceral, exciting, and realistic action dramas, that are based on true stories. The disaster special effects budget recalls Irwin Allen, while the realism is Werner Herzog. It’s a stirring combination of sensibilities.
This movie chronicles the 2010 oil rig explosion in the Gulf of Mexico, that caused the worst ever spill in U.S. history. 11 people were killed that April day on the Deepwater Horizon, and others were seriously injured (there were over 100 people on board). Mike Williams (very strong Mr. Wahlberg) is an experienced worker, who is flown on the rig via helicopter (pre-disaster), for a multi-week stint, while leaving his wife Felicia (a not simply phoning-it-in, Kate Hudson) and young daughter at home on the mainland. Jimmy Harrell (the indispensable, Kurt Russell) runs the marine explorer, and he’s respected for his ethics and safety record. Donald Vidrine (a sinister John Malkovich) is the Nawlins’ drawling, BP baddie, who claims over testing is expensive and unnecessary. Sure it is.
Ultimately, I’m going to deduct a point, or two, from “Deepwater Horizon”, for having the characters spell out, and overexplain, its dilemma. But, honestly, the finished film would be somewhat confusing without it…so I can’t be TOO harsh. Plus, the dismissive executive played by Mr. Malkovich, is a bit overplayed…but he’s sleazy fun. The strong, more grounded work, comes from Mr. Russell and Mr. Wahlberg. It’s muscular and sensitive. Also, Gina Rodriguez, impresses as a young technician named Andrea. And Dylan O’Brien is quite good as Caleb, a co-worker of Mike’s. You’ll care about these characters, as they are written in Matthew Michael Carnahan’s and Matthew Sand’s thoughtful screenplay. The script helps showcase their work, their dedication, their pain–and in some cases, their demise. It’s all beautifully realized.