Deepwater Horizon Review

When adapting the woes of the world, filmmakers must be careful with the fragile nature of the truth. They take the terrors of this, almost as if it were a burden, and bring it to the screen with the hopes of inspiring or warning their audience. Deepwater Horizon attempts to do both, controlling what we see and hear about Mike Williams (Mark Wahlberg), in the hopes that he can be presented as a hero, but also as a victim of the very event that made him a name of integrity and hope. That much is present in this Peter Berg feature, but the story of Williams suffers from not just a simplicity that Berg finds comfort in, but with its representation of how these terrifying, real-world events shape the hearts and minds of those deeply involved with them. 

To convince us of their likeability, we must first suffer through their personal lives. It makes for a nice parallel to the jargon-heavy observations of the later stages of the film. Either way, Berg cannot bring the family drama and the fight for survival together too well, although they try and coexist. Characters coping with their current situation by reminding themselves that they have family waiting at home. It is the human reaction Berg manages to adapt well here, and of course, much of that is shown through Kurt Russell and John Malkovich. Their supporting performances are a permanent source of quality, understated as ever but bringing such an integral variety to the film. While Wahlberg is the everyday hero, Malkovich presents the ruminating, inevitable self-preservation that comes during disasters. He plays that well, but there is little differentiation between this and other modern-day disasters. 

Much of Deepwater Horizon reflects a strange similarity to that of Sully: Miracle on the Hudson. There are mundane moments within the Berg biopic that are meant to bring a graceful foreshadowing. A can of cola exploding, erupting from the top and pouring up and around looks mightily similar to that of the Deepwater Horizon disaster. It takes quite some time before that foreshadowing comes into play, and when it does there are certainly rewarding, tense scenes to be found between Marky Mark, Malkovich and Russell. Nice details are lingering around, the magenta tie superstition is a nice touch, but, again, feels like steady and inevitable foreshadowing. Berg needs to make these moments less obvious for them to work effectively. 

Bringing such a challenge and pain to the screen is no small feat, and while Berg does not have a subtlety, he does have a strict set of dynamic set pieces that bring out the best in this ensemble. We can see the lingering effects of a busted rig tasked with bringing profits to suits safely on the mainland. That much is obvious enough to work, but what lacks here is a sense of camaraderie, which would have been not just effective, but necessary in a film that wishes to hold within it a focus on the relationship between oil rig survivors and mechanics. Men and women who are trying desperately to prevent a disaster, but have no real hopes of doing so. That is the beauty Deepwater Horizon finds itself shying away from, but at least it is still prevalent and relevant throughout the leading performances.  

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