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Deepwater Horizon (Mark Wahlberg) - Review

Deepwater Hoizon

Review by Rob Carnevale

IndieLondon Rating: 4 out of 5

THE 2010 explosion on the Deepwater Horizon oil rig on the Gulf of Mexico remains the biggest ecological disaster in US history. But while many of the headlines that followed the disaster in the weeks and months that followed focused on the environmental impact of the oil spill, Peter Berg’s new film focuses on the human element.

It serves as a tribute to the men and women who lost their lives as well as the bravery of some survivors. But it’s also a damning indictment of the corporate greed that contributed fully to the disaster in the first place.

As such, it’s something of an emotional rollercoaster; a film just as capable of making you angry as it is sad. It’s also a technical marvel, capable of capturing the full intensity of the hell on Earth as it unfolded.

The story primarily is told from the point of view of Everyman engineer Mike Williams (Mark Wahlberg), whose arrives on the Deepwater Horizon for his latest shift amid heightened tensions.

His boss, Transocean veteran Mr Jimmy (Kurt Russell), is at loggerheads with BP executives – led by a number crunching Donald Vidrine (John Malkovich) – over safety concerns that, in the former man’s opinion, have not been addressed prior to the start of drilling.

An uneasy compromise is reached but it isn’t long before Mr Jimmy’s warnings prove prophetic, and Williams and his co-workers find themselves fighting desperately to save the rig and their lives.

Berg directs the chaos that follows with scary intensity, doing his damnedest to put you into the heat of the action. For some, the action will feel disorientating and it is extremely difficult to focus at times, let alone keep up. But that is Berg’s point.

Rather than resorting to any directorial tricks such as slow motion, Berg just lets the carnage unfold. Explosions go off at any moment, lights flicker on and off, attempts to communicate are drowned out by screaming and/or the shattering debris around them.

As a result, some acts of heroism assume a blink and you’ll miss them quality. But while this could be frustrating, it feels real.

Aadded kudos must therefore go to Berg’s cast for the way in which they still manage to give performances amid the mayhem. Wahlberg is on career-best form as Williams, physically convincing and emotionally compelling, even in the heat of the moment. His best work comes at the end, however, when he is afforded a quiet breakdown moment to rival Tom Hanks’ jaw-dropping moment in Captain Philips

But Russell, too, is every bit as good as the no-nonsense Mr Jimmy, a man not afraid to stand up for his men against the corporate suits. Malkovich, for his part, is eerily convincing as the corporate stooge, flexing his corporate muscles pre-disaster and then cowering for cover during, while Kate Hudson puts in an affecting performance as Williams’ distraught wife back home.

Berg, meanwhile, deserves extra praise for the way he invests audiences without manipulating their sympathies (your tears are earned), as well as for having the guts to point the finger of blame so resolutely.

His film leaves you in no doubt that this was a preventable tragedy, especially as the facts make for sobering reading: 11 men died on board the rig, while the ensuing crude oil spill lasted for 87 days and saw 200 million gallons pumped into the sea, affecting 16,000 miles of coastline and killing more than 8,000 animals.

But while Deepwater Horizon focuses primarily on the hours before and after the disaster, it stands as a deservedly gruelling experience – but a highly recommended one too.

Certificate: 12A
Running time: 107mins
UK Release Date: September 29, 2016