Deepwater Horizon Review

Rated: 3/5

I don’t have anything off the top of my head, so I’ll just type and babble and ramble and see what comes of it. The movie is a disaster film that isn’t as good as Dante’s Peak, but not as bad as Volcano or San Andreas (yeah, I didn’t care for the latter, the former can be so-bad-it’s-good at times).


Uh, what is it about this movie that gives me so little to talk about? I mean, it has both Kurt Russell and Marky Mark in it, and Russell gets blown away while naked taking a shower. Shouldn’t this be A+ awesomeness? Well, for the first 3/4ths, it is. Edit: Let me rephrase that; the first 3/4ths ranged from B- to A- in quality. The family drama was adequate, with typical family introductions which thankfully didn’t get melodramatic, though I do wonder if that soda+honey experiment would happen like that; I may get around to finding a youtube video that shows this experiment, or trying it myself to be sure. The buildup was great, showing how things built up to going so wrong, the shortcuts taken by the higher ups for more profit, the barely functioning to not working at all computers, alarm systems, smoke alarms, among other things. Showing how some of the things work on the oil rig is interesting. But, like most disaster films, I have to wonder how accurate the film was to the real life thing?

From what I’ve gathered, it’s as accurate as can be with the information they have, for the most part.

Still, investigations complicate the simple picture told in Deepwater Horizon. In one scene, for instance, Vidrine concocts a convenient theory that would allow the drilling process to move faster. In reality, witnesses said, that theory was concocted by a Transocean employee.Source

So of course the villainize the BP execs more than is probably deserved, even though investigations concluded they bear the brunt of the responsibility for the incident, but so does Transocean, and other entities.

“The Deepwater Horizon movie is Hollywood’s take on a tragic and complex accident. It is not an accurate portrayal of the events that led to the accident, our people, or the character of our company. In fact, it ignores the conclusions reached by every official investigation: that the accident was the result of multiple errors made by a number of companies. Coming as it does six-and-a-half years after the accident, the movie also does not reflect who we are today, the lengths we’ve gone to restore the Gulf, the work we’ve done to become safer, and the trust we’ve earned back around the world.”Source


But that’s Hollywood being Hollywood. Could it have been done better and with more depth and complexity? Probably, but that’s difficult to do when everything isn’t clear for multiple reasons.

We also found that several of the people who were involved in the real-life incident clearly had gag orders as a result of their settlement with BP; they told us they could not speak with us. The ones who did not have gag orders did speak to us. BP’s two main rig supervisors, Donald Vidrine and Robert Kaluza (who were played by John Malkovich and Brad Leland), did not speak to us. But because their testimony from the congressional and coastguard hearings is on record, we were able to capture so much of their documented actions and conversations that we didn’t really need to speak to them. — Source

So like The Path to 9/11, another film that covered a controversial subject where very rich people had connections to such events, the film studio and director had to have lawyers around to make sure that things were as accurate as possible, because they would be under scrutiny and under the microscope of people who could do financial damage to them.

The legal processes were something else. Lionsgate, our studio, had a team of independent lawyers who would review every word in the script, constantly. It didn’t stop there: because I do a lot of improvisation, things change during the shoot. So in the final edits the lawyers were all over me; it was the first time in my career I have ever had to take mandatory edits from the studio. For example, we had a scene that might have suggested that workers were under pressure to say the rig was safe because BP managers wanted to move on to another oil well. It was 100% true and very well documented, but the lawyers were concerned it was making BP look too responsible for the blowout. So we had to back off. It was frustrating. — Source


So I’ll give the film slack in that regard.

Anyway, back to the film itself. The characters are ok. Mark Wahlberg is strong, Kurt Russell is strong. Everyone else is mediocre at best. Not much else to say in that regard. Wahlberg plays a decent plain hero well enough, feeling like a typical oil rig guy familiar with the rig and everyone on it, Russell being the same except in a more hard-ass leadership role. Wahlberg has a great PTSD moment near the end of the film that, I have to admit, got me a bit emotional as well. But everyone else is just, meh.

But the action. Man, I was just waiting to see all hell break loose, and seeing things come closer and closer to that point was nail-biting. Bubbles bursting through the cracks, pressure gauges going up and up, the dread setting in.

And once the pressure becomes to great and it all breaks loose, it gets intense as hell. Explosion after explosion, things going wrong too fast for any normal person to keep up with. A fire from hell consuming the entire rig. And when the credits roll, you are left wondering how in the hell it is possible for only 11 people to have been killed from an incident like that. The fact that it didn’t turn into a massive slaughterhouse where 60-90% of everyone on the rig got mutilated is miraculous when you see the whole thing unfold. This is one of those incidents that, while there are plenty of practical effects that are used to this film’s credit (hell, they even built their own life-sized mock oil rig for the film, see source above), there is no way they could’ve pulled off the visuals without using CG, and what CG they did use is used effectively. CG is necessary for something like this. Because there aren’t just explosions going off at a high rate at a frightening speed, you also hear ricochets of metal and other parts just flying everywhere with each explosion. Poor Kurt Russell gets hundreds of glass shards embedded into him, all over his body.


That’s fantastic and all, but it just seems as if it blows its load too early. And I’m not so sure if there is any other way to do it without being more “Hollywood” and less “realistic”, but after the inferno consumes the rig and a few minutes after some of the workers get a hold of themselves and start trying to evacuate, the film just wasn’t as strong. There were some moments, like the delayed attempt at cutting off the pipeline, to seeing how messed up the hallways have gotten, to restoring power to try and get a last minute attempt at control, which all seems futile at this point considering what’s going on all around them. I have a feeling I’ll appreciate it more on a rewatch.

But when all is said and done, it’s a solid enough “disaster film”. Not the strongest, not the weakest, just in the middle of the pack. There’s enough there for a good watch, but not enough for it to be held in high standard in the years to come.

Other source of interest:
Wired article, The true story behind the horror of Mark Wahlberg’s Deepwater Horizon

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