*Originally written October 6th, 2016*
"Water way to have a good time"
I have a good history with disaster films. I grew up watching them and loving them. Peter Berg’s films on the other hand…. I hated Battleship (like most) and I found Lone Survivor to be a shameless army recruitment film that cashed-in on the lives of soldiers that were lost. Deepwater Horizon is another story. It’s a heartfelt and powerful action drama that pays tribute to the victims of this avoidable incident and gives us some pretty spectacular, but not gratuitous action. Films like this draw a thin towards being “destruction porn” which makes light of tragedy by giving us bombastic action with none of the substance, and that can be taken as tasteless. Deepwater manages to deliver its explosive action and gives us characters to care for. Making Deepwater Horizon compelling viewing.
Mark Wahlberg is front and centre here and he’s as reliable and lovable as he always is. It’s almost impossible not to love that goofy little face and childlike eyes. We’re given the most time with his character, with the opening scenes building up the relationship with his daughter and wife, which rings true and brought an emotional core to the film. It even made way for a very emotionally devastating finale that gave me a gut-punch I never would have expected from a film like this. Wahlberg’s performance in the final moments reminded me of Tom Hanks in the excellent Captain Phillips from 2016. The rest of the cast fare well too. Kurt Russell stands out and John Malkovich gives a strange accent, I’m not entirely sure what he was going for?
Malkovich is also the closest thing Deepwater Horizon has to a bad guy, but he’s really not, he’s just an arrogant guy who makes a mistake. A fatal mistake, but a human mistake. I really liked that about how it was handled, they easily could have given a cartoony bad guy we all wanted to see die, but we didn’t and there’s was a very quick shot of Malkovich that showed in his face the horror and regret of what had happened over the events of the night. It was minor, but it bought a lot to the character. Deepwater briefly explores who the blame was for this incident, but only in fleeting moments, I wish that was explored a little more.
While the build-up to the actual disaster is earned, when things kick-off, it is non-stop. Once that explosion happens, you don’t get a chance to breathe and it has some of the best design and action I’ve seen in 2016. The sets are detailed and feel real, the explosions look genuine and dangerous. I’m sure CGI was used, but everything looked and felt real. The sound design is also wonderful, the score from Steve Jablonsky was really good too, it delivered emotion and intensity without feeling manipulative. Everything mixed together to make for a truly spectacular and beautiful spectacle. While it feels a bit wrong to call a film about a tragedy “Beautiful”, Deepwater Horizon is beautiful. There is breathtaking cinematography in the latter half of the film, the fire was great to look at. The whole film has a gritty and realistic feel to it, but it doesn’t lack in style and visceral action, which is one the few things I agree Berg had a knack for in Lone Survivor. I feel he’s really improved as a director between this and Lone Survivor and I can’t wait to see his next film ‘Patriots Day’ which is about the Boston Bombings and also stars Mark Wahlberg and is out later this year.
Peter Berg directs the hell out of this film, delivering a truly intense, but heartfelt memorial to the victims of the event. Deepwater Horizon is the best disaster film of the year. A powerful, well acted and intense action drama that never feels dishonest and exploiting that tragedy, but instead pays tribute to those who were lost.
Deepwater Horizon is out now on 4K UHD, Blu-ray and DVD in the UK
Watch the trailer below:
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