Deepwater Horizon, 2016
Directed by Peter Berg
I was a really big fan of Peter Bergs last film, Lone Survivor. I think it was a really well made and well told story. It was a simple story, but it was treated with complexity and subtly. And it also kind of made me believe in Mark Walhberg again. So naturally, I was actually kind of looking forward to this one. While it's a little less nuanced, even in just the subject matter of the story, it was still a well made film.
Deepwater Horizon tells the story of the biggest oil spill in history and gives us a full picture of what "oil spill" actually means. We follow Mike Williams and his crew as they board the Deepwater Horizon to find out the previous crew left early before doing some cement tests on the actual well. The crew insists that they need to do more tests before actually drilling, which the visiting BP men are hesitant to do because this rig is already 43 days behind schedule. However, even after the test results are sketchy at best, BP insists that it's fine. But only a few hours later does everything go wrong.
I vaguely remember hearing about this spill when it happened. It was 2010 and I was a senior in high school. I remember hearing the term "oil spill" and pictured one of those Captain Phillips-like freight boats was carrying oil and somehow the ship was sideways in the water, oil spilling out. To me, back then, that's what I pictured when someone said oil spill. I don't remember hearing about the fires that took days and days to put out.
Peter Berg makes a smart move and contains the events of the movie simple to April 20th 2010. The first part of the film is a little disorienting, as it jumps straight into oil rig jargon and we don't have a "new person" to have all these terms explained to, for us. While you don't 100% know what's going on, you do get the gist. But the second half, with the explosions and the oil spill, you don't really need words. It's almost like watching Titanic, where nowhere the crew can go is safe.
To me, the films running time at 1 hour 47 minutes is perfect. It's not too long and Berg knows not to draw things out. He keeps the beginning simple, and the second half of the film is just as long as it needs to be. It's a brisk film but it really gets to the point. The only drawback is we probably don't get enough blame pushed onto BP and the big corporations that skimped on a lot of the safety tests, but when you limit your film to only the day-of, that happens. We get enough blame and questions asked as you can for a setting like that.
Honestly, I actually quite enjoyed Deepwater Horizon. In a summer of really meh movies, this is probably the first movie I've genuinely liked in a while. Mark Walhberg does a serviceable job, and it's nice to see Gina Rodriguez up on the big screen. Deepwater Horizon is simple in premise, and while it doesn't make as huge an impact as Lone Survivor did, this is still an admirable film that treats the subject matter with both anger and dignity.