Deepwater Horizon





Director Peter Berg delivers the goods with a real-life disaster movie that feels only too real.


Deepwater Horizon
Eventful Horizon: Mark Wahlberg 


There’s a moment in Deepwater Horizon when John Malkovich says, “we’ve got zero pressure on the kill line.” It’s not an observation guaranteed to quicken the viewer’s pulse, but we know it means a lot to the men Malkovich is talking to. In fact, most of us have probably never been on an oil well, but we’ve heard of the eponymous rig now synonymous with the worst oil disaster in US history. The technical minutiae of the case are dramatically immaterial – albeit crucial to British Petroleum – so director Peter Berg (The Kingdom, Lone Survivor) has focused on the characters and the realism.


There were 126 people on the Horizon on that fateful day of 10 April 2010 and thus there are 126 stories to tell. The scenarists Matthew Michael Carnahan and Matthew Sand, drawing their material from an article in The New York Times, have opted to concentrate on the story of master electrician Mike Williams, played here by the film’s producer Mark Wahlberg. In the event, Williams proved to be something of a hero, which is more than can be said for BP liaison manager Donald Vidrine (Malkovich). The latter’s job is to save his London-based company money and he is reluctant to greenlight the $125,000 that a routine pressure test would cost. Installation manager Jimmy Harrell (a rugged, convincing Kurt Russell) insists that the test go ahead, hence Vidrine’s remark that there’s zero pressure on the kill line. Vidrine also notes that the rig – a semi-submersible offshore behemoth – is a mechanism of a thousand moving parts and it’s his job to keep it all well-oiled. Eyeing him with barely concealed contempt, Wahlberg’s Mike Williams remarks, “Hope ain’t a tactic, Don.”


What follows is hell on earth and because Berg has constructed his $156 million movie like an IMAX documentary (please see it in IMAX), the film’s drama registers all the greater. We feel that we are really there and have invested our emotions in a handful of characters who look like they live and breathe the oil beneath the ocean floor. Whether or not the facts are entirely authentic is neither here nor there: this is a disaster movie and the disaster really happened. What we see on the screen certainly seems real, aided by frequent cuts to the inside workings of the massive infrastructure, beneath a platform the size of a city block weighing in at 33,000 tons. The result of the subsequent explosion, fuelled by reserves of subterranean methane released under inconceivable pressure, sparked a series of fireballs and drenched the crew in combustible gas. In such conditions there were many ways to die: from burning oil, hurtling girders, choking smoke, ballistic mud or just instant incineration. It seems a miracle that only eleven crew members lost their lives. The film itself is not just a gripping, authentic experience, but a homage to the victims and the survivors.




Cast: Mark Wahlberg, Kurt Russell, John Malkovich, Gina Rodriguez, Dylan O'Brien, Kate Hudson, Ethan Suplee, James DuMont, Peter Berg.


Dir Peter Berg, Pro Lorenzo di Bonaventura, Mark Vahradian, Mark Wahlberg, Stephen Levinson and David Womark, Screenplay Matthew Michael Carnahan and Matthew Sand, Ph Enrique Chediak, Pro Des Chris Seagers, Ed Colby Parker Jr and Gabriel Fleming, Music Steve Jablonsky, Costumes Kasia Walicka-Maimone.


Participant Media/Di Bonaventura Pictures/Closest to the Hole Productions/Leverage Entertainment-Lionsgate.

107 mins. USA. 2016. Rel: 29 September 2016. Cert. 12A.