Review by: Dave Griffiths
Peter Berg (Friday Night Lights) has to be one of the most underrated film directors going around. Barring the ill-fated Battleship, Berg has always created films and television shows with a brilliant sense of realism. Lone Survivor transported the audience to the battlefield with ease, whilst many could be forgiven for confusing Friday Night Lights with a genuine high school football team. With Deepwater Horizon, Berg applies this skill to the disaster film genre. At times, it’s as though you can feel the heat of the flames against your skin.
Adapted from a true story, electrician Mike Williams (Mark Wahlberg – Lone Survivor) has left his wife, Felicia (Kate Hudson – Almost Famous) to work on the ill-fated ‘Deepwater Horizon’ oil rig. Poor safety practices by BP would lead to an accident, causing the rig to erupt into flames and leaving Mike and his colleagues fighting for their lives.
Where some of the survivors of the disaster were hesitant in having their story told, fortunately, they need not have worried. Berg doesn’t trivialize or exploit the memory of the men who died on that fateful day by rendering their tale as a popcorn action film. Instead, he makes this a character drama about sacrifice and bravery. To his credit, Berg doesn’t hide the facts and points the finger firmly at BP without fear.
Rather than wasting time on technical details, at the heart of Deepwater Horizon is character drama. Instead of focusing on the ins and outs of the disaster specifically, Berg fixates on everyday battles and the people left at home. Motifs such as a child at show-and-tell and car problems are seamlessly inserted into the script and humanise this story. However, by no means does this detract from the amazing action sequences created by Berg and his cinematographer, Enrique Chediak (The 5th Wave).
As a director, Berg brings the best out in his cast. Here, Mark Wahlberg delivers his best as an action hero with dramatic depth. Kurt Russell also benefits from one of the meatier roles he has been given over the years and is well matched by John Malkovich who is something of a villain. Despite her limited screen time, Kate Hudson also delivers a standout performance.
Deepwater Horizon is proof that a modern day disaster film can find a balance between action and character drama. With Berg’s brilliant directing, Deepwater Horizon is one of the must-see films of 2016.