Although we didn’t get a lot of details other than the continuous reference to the concrete tests, it was readily apparent that there was deepening tension and disdain between those responsible for the safety and productivity of the oil rig, and those company men who only wanted to get things back on schedule. Never since Alien and Aliens has the company (BP Oil), and the company man, (Donald Vidrine, played superbly by the legend John Malkovich), been more of a villain in a movie. The tension builds as the Company prevails in the battle of wills, and 45 minutes after the start of the movie, all hell literally breaks loose on the Deepwater Horizon.
Deepwater Horizon is the consummate disaster movie that was based on the biggest and most costly oil spill disaster in history. The actual event claimed 11 lives, cost 64.1 billion dollars, and was devastating to the environment and the economy of the Gulf Coast. In addition to this film being a really entertaining seat-grabber, it is satisfying to see a film dedicated to trying to take down an enormous multi-billion dollar corporation, with their predictable choice to put profits over lives and the environment.
As the film progresses, we immediately detect that something is very wrong. As the players assemble, the tension and battle of wills becomes painfully obvious. It is Company profits v. boots on the ground expertise and experience. It is the magnificent Kurt Russell v. the equally magnificent John Malkovich, and something has to give. Kurt Russell might have lost the battle but he won the war, and the war damn near killed him and everyone else on board. The working crew on the rig are queasy and uneasy and we get subtle hints that things are falling apart and becoming more dangerous as the project falls further and further behind schedule.
Along with the great Kurt Russell and the smarmy Malkovich, Mark Wahlberg is the lead actor throughout this film. Mike Williams is the engineer and it is the interaction between Williams, Vidrine and Jimmy Harrell that is the very essence of this film. The phones barely work, the smoke detectors are mostly inoperable, and the toilets don’t flush properly. Deferred maintenance is everywhere, but the show must go on, and oil must be pumped. These subtle hints prepare us for the impending disaster, and what a disaster it is! When the explosions start, the results are beyond harrowing. The ocean is an unforgiving place, and so much more so at night, and when it is engulfed with fire and seemingly endless explosions and chaos.
Berg expertly uses sound and light, with intermittent explosions and flying bodies and projectiles. The horrifying impact of the reality of an offshore oil rig explosion omnipresent as the residents of this floating Hell struggle to survive. The roll call for survivors that is done by a badly-wounded Harrell is haunting as at least eleven are not there to answer the roll. He is horribly wounded, but never fails to answer the bell and must find out who survived. The disaster has claimed some of them, but not Vidrine, and the look that Harrell gives Vidrine, with his one good eye, is unforgettable as the villain predictably survives the horror that he created.
Deepwater Horizon is one of this years best and recommended to be watched on the Big Screen and IMAX if possible, in all its glory. 8/10 for a great disaster film about a horrific environmental and human tragedy.
Special Ruthless Ratings
- I give this film very high marks for what it did not do, that is exploit sappiness and human drama. The goodbyes at the beginning of the film were mundane and uneventful, and there was not a lot of drawn-out angst among those back at home, anxiously awaiting for news from the rig. The ending was indeed wrenching, but not overdone at all. Good job of not turning this disaster film into an unwatchable mess.