Main cast: Mark Wahlberg (Mike Williams), Gina Rodriguez (Andrea Fleytas), Dylan O’Brien (Caleb Holloway), Kate Hudson (Felicia Williams), Ethan Suplee (Jason Anderson), Kurt Russell (Jimmy Harrell), and John Malkovich (Donald Vidrine)
Director: Peter Berg
You may recall that Deepwater Horizon was the name of the semi-submersible Mobile Offshore Drilling Unit (MODU) – or so it is helpfully stated in the movie – that blew up in 2010, causing the largest oil spill disaster to date in the US. The MODU was owned by Transocean, and it was hired by BP to drill for oil off the Louisiana coastline, and the courts found both parties guilty for negligence and cost-cutting measures that led to the whole disaster. Naturally, Hollywood has to make a movie out of the whole thing, and this one is co-produced by Mark Wahlberg who also starred in it.
This one could have been another Titanic, in which things were played up to drive home the whole tragedy of the event, but interestingly enough, it opts to instead restrain itself considerably. While portraying the efforts of the crew as well as that of the supply ship Damon Bankston, and of course the Coast Guard, it does not pull out all stops on showing the heroism of the people involved. Things feel, on the whole, real – while Mark Wahlberg gets to do some heroic stuff, as it’s probably part of his perks as co-producer and star, the crew feel like real people stuck in a desperate situation. The movie is a lot more gripping to watch as a result. Sure, the good guys are predictably enough portrayed as good people with loving families who are waiting for them at home, and the movie also relies on some predictable shticks like throwing eye-rolling premonitions of the explosions at my face early in the movie, but it still succeeds in getting me to care for the crew’s safety. Even if I don’t remember the names of any of them apart from the characters played by Mark Wahlberg and Kurt Russell, and that’s because these two get the most screentime.
The movie is not subtle, though, when it comes to shifting the blame entirely to BP. They even get John Malkovich to be even more loathsome than usual in his role as Donald Vidrine, complete with irritating tics and all, as that slug who pushed for the crew to overlook safety measures and red flags just to meet a deadline. The Transocean crew is portrayed as rules-abiding people who are pushed by BP scums to break safety protocol. I doubt BP would be sponsoring its staff to watch this movie during company outings anytime soon.
If there is one annoying thing about this movie, it’s the dialogues. Everyone here speaks in an affected, gimmicky way – constantly cracking out one-liners as if they are auditioning for an improvisational sitcom, and Jimmy Harrell is stuck with some of the most cringe-inducing lines ever. Jimmy tries to use allegories and imageries to sound like a profound wise man, but he ends up just being an annoying twat who can’t get straight to the point. I’m actually glad when the whole thing explodes, because then everyone will shut up and either die or start scrambling for safety. No more incessant hammy conversations to grate on my nerves, thank you BP corporate scums.
Anyway, Deepwater Horizon may be bogged down by Hallmark-style tropes and cheesy dialogues, but it still succeeds in serving a gritty and often heart-wrenching movie at the end of the day. So I guess it’s worth a look, if only to remind ourselves that the folks at BP and Transocean get away probably too lightly for the number of lives and the amount of ecological damage caused by their efforts to cut corners while chasing for profit.