Posted Sep 30 2016

Deepwater Horizon - This Movie Explodes. And Rocks

Dir: Peter Berg

Starring Marky Mark sans the Funky Bunch, Kurt Russell, John Malkovich, Kate Hudson, Gina Rodriguez

If original director J C Chandor had not been replaced on Deepwater Horizon, odds are the movie would have focused more on the fact that this recent piece of history was in fact the biggest environmental disaster in history. But when Marky Mark brought in his bruv from another muv, Peter Berg, to direct, the emphasis firmly changed to telling a tale of brave men and women overcoming a disaster movie. A Towering Inferno in which most make it out alive.

If that sounds reductive, it is by no means meant as a slight on Berg’s film, merely an observation on how Hollywood projects shape themselves. What Berg has crafted here is a fine, emotionally driven action movie that shows genuine concern for it’s real-life characters, and tells a grim story with remarkable efficiency and resonance. And it’s a much better movie that his and Wahlberg’s previous, ultimately hollow outing Lone Survivor.

Deepwater Horizon is of course the BP oil rig that in 2010 blew every gasket imaginable and all but ruined the gulf of Mexico; Wahlberg is Mike Williams, a central figure in the evacuation of the vast majority of the crew aboard who survived. (Eleven of them tragically didn’t, poignantly captured in the film’s end titles.)

Berg’s film does two things very well – before it gets to its immersive action sequences. It takes industry techno-speak and makes it relatable (a trick Aaron Sorkin has been working for years, but still, no mean feat.) You may not know what they mean specifically, but through intonation and performance you get the gist of where they – and you – are in the story. And it manages to sketch pictures of its primary cast and their lives in a short, sharp and effective manner, avoiding cliché for the most part. (Props to screenwriters Mathew Michael Carnahan and Matthew Sand.)

Also of note in building Berg’s tension is composer Steve Jablonsky, whose score effectively shepherds everything up to its inevitable explosion before said event. And when said event kicks in, Berg manages to marshal all around him to great effect. What happens to the Deepwater oil rig is a thing of total chaos, but as a director Berg manages to steer us through it with more ability that he’s demonstrated before. At its best the film has a real “you are there” visceral quality to it that is extremely powerful and compelling.

And lest it be nothing more than that, Berg manages to pack a genuine emotional punch at the end of it – even before the titles/testimonials begin.

This is big scale explosive filmmaking at its most confident. It doesn’t reinvent the wheel. But it knows how to turn it well.


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