“Deepwater Horizon” was the name of the BP/TransOcean deep sea oil drilling platform that failed on April 20, 2010, killing 11 men and covering the Gulf Of Mexico in millions of gallons of oil.
The film based on those events is directed by Peter Berg, who made both the TV and movie versions of “Friday Night Lights,” but was also responsible for the completely unnecessary big screen adaptation of the board game “Battleship.” A few years ago, Berg made “Lone Survivor,” starring Mark Wahlberg as, well, the only soldier to survive an attack — it was the first movie in a long time that needed a spoiler alert for its own title. Now he and Wahlberg have teamed up to tell another based-on-real-events story.
For “Deepwater Horizon,” Berg couldn’t get permission from any of the oil companies (especially BP) to shoot onboard an existing deep sea rig, so he built one of his own — a scale model that looks great on the screen and allowed him to make much of the movie with practical effects, rather than green screen CGI. So, when the rig starts to blow (and it blows up real good), it looks realistic as hell.
The problem is that there’s no drama in “Deepwater Horizon.” We know it’s going to blow, we know most of the crew got off the rig. Sure, we knew what happened in “Sully,” too, but that adventure had the conflict of the NTSB investigation, while “Deepwater Horizon” ends before we see anything similar. There’s also nothing about the after-effects of the spill on the environment or the businesses that were ruined along the gulf coast — just a few slides of the men who died and the BP execs who were charged with manslaughter (charges that were later dropped).
Another problem with “Deepwater Horizon” is understanding what actually went wrong. You see things bubbling and rumbling under water, but you’re not really clear what happens down there or up top, where the crew works. There’s lots of technical deep-sea drilling terminology, but it doesn’t make sense because there’s no one to explain it in layman’s language. It’s clear that Mark Wahlberg, Kurt Russell, and Gina Rodriguez are the heroes and John Malkovich is the villain — he’s the evil BP man who makes bad decisions that may have led to the ultimate problems, and Malkovich plays him with a Cajun accent so heavy I wasn’t even sure it was him at first.
The cast also includes Kate Hudson as the wife of Mark Wahlberg’s character. But like Sienna Miller in “American Sniper” and Laura Linney in “Sully,” she only gets to be the worried-spouse-on-the-phone, bringing exactly nothing to the script or story line. It’s as if someone at the studio said, “But there’s no love interest” and “We get too many complaints about a lack of roles for actresses over 40,” so they wedged one in.
As a movie, “Deepwater Horizon” isn’t a giant oil spill of a disaster, it’s just another run-of-the-mill action film. It doesn’t enlighten you on how things went so wrong, but it does have solid performances and big explosive scenes.
I give it a 6 out of 10.