Classic Movie Reviews

Classic Review: Deepwater Horizon (2016)

Since I’ve started this site, I’ve written a lot of reviews. In case you missed some of my earlier ones, I would like to share an older review of “Deepwater Horizon” which originally appeared here.

Based on the true events that occurred on an oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico on April 20, 2010, the story chronicles the courage of those who worked on the Deepwater Horizon and the extreme moments of bravery and survival in the face of what would become one of the biggest man-made disasters in world history.

Everybody knows about the BP oil spill off the Gulf of Mexico from a few years ago but some of you may not know the events that led up to that incident. Deepwater Horizon is a dramatization of those events. The film follows the Chief Electronics Technician of Deepwater Horizon, Mike Williams (Mark Wahlberg). The film starts off with him, along with fellow crew members Jimmy Harrell (Kurt Russell) and Andrea Fleytas (Gina Rodriguez), making their way to the oil rig to begin their work assignment. Before this, the film spends some time fleshing out these characters.

Once they arrive, things are not quite right, however, as the rig has been inadequately prepared for their arrival. Those higher up in BP would rather cut corners with safety in order to accelerate production and increase their own profits. The film did not depict these people in too sinister a manner, highlighting their greed and the lengths they would go for it. Despite the stated concerns by Williams and Harrell to stop all activity until all safety precautions have been taken. Their disregard is what led to the incident. The film could have gone further with this but chose to focus on the oil workers and their heroic efforts.

The film does not waste any time, going straight into the crisis. This crisis builds up as characters experience the destruction occurring around them. This was exciting to watch as the rig’s destruction affected different characters in different ways. The destruction started off slow and quickly builds in size and scale. This was fun to watch as the special effects behind them were well done. The sound and the way in which these scenes were shot made them feel very immersive.

The problem with this sequence is that it distracts viewers from the film’s original message about these real characters and their real life experience and kind of became more of a generic disaster film. This shifted the focus slightly away from the people who died that night and was more on Williams and his journey of survival. This was okay but it would have been nice to have more focus on the other characters.

The plot itself was relatively simple and predictable. The film felt like it could have been about a lot of things and was unsure which way to go. It would have been nice if the film had chosen a direction instead of a mashup of directions. Even with that, the story was still enjoyable with likable, compelling, yet mostly underdeveloped characters. The film spent little time with Williams and his family, including his wife Felicia (Kate Hudson), but their relationship was believable, explaining his motivation to survive. Fleytas was the only other character who got any development but that’s not really saying anything. Harrell was the grizzled, experience, hardworking leader which is mostly implied (obviously).

The acting was good all around. Wahlberg’s Russell is not much of a departure from past Wahlberg characters but he made him likeable enough and worth caring about. This made it so we were invested in whether or not he would die. Russell was convincing as Harrell. He was a great leader and the scenes where he confronted the people in charge were entertaining. Rodriguez and Dylan O’Brien were okay but they didn’t have much to do. Neither did Hudson who served as the cliche, supporting wife at home type. John Malkovich was fantastic as a BP representative, Donald Vidrine, showing their greed and then their cowardice once things got tough.

Overall, this was an enjoyable, generic disaster film with great special effects, good performances, but a messy story.

Score: 7.5/10

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