Every so often a film comes along that is so powerful and intense it absolutely pins you to your seat. Deepwater Horizon is one of those films. This telling of the real-life oilrig disaster holds such a devastating human element that it is even hard to watch at times.
The film details the 2010 explosion of the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig and its immediate consequences for the crew onboard as they are forced to navigate a maze of fire and oil in order to survive. The film tracks an ensemble, but focuses mostly on Mark Wahlberg as Mike Williams, who we see follow from his home to the disaster.
Now, although the film seemed to be advertised as a ‘disaster movie’, don’t go in expecting your run-of-the-mill one. This is less of a ‘disaster movie’ and more just a film about a disaster. The film has an unexpectedly and unusually long set-up prior to the explosion, which effectively builds tension as well as develops a sense of camaraderie and the relationships between the workers. It is this emotional element that allows the film its great emotional impact later on. In comparison to this, the action of the film seems short-lived, but this feeling may simply stem from the film breaking the expected mould.
When disaster strikes, the film launches into a heart-stopping pursuit of survival, becoming incredibly intense as the characters fight to escape. There are moments of graphic injury which add a sense of the real danger and show the characters not to be invincible. It is an extremely involving human experience, evoking strong emotions as it hits home hard.
The film is bolstered by a fantastic cast all on top form. There is not a weak link in the ensemble as they each create authentic portrayals of members of a team working together to survive. Peter Berg’s direction keeps the film right on balance, crafting strong emotional responses yet keeping a genuine feel, never veering into the melodramatic or cheesy.
Another different component that Deepwater Horizon explores is the after-effects on the people involved, specifically Williams. This emphasises the fact that disasters do not end for them purely when they are pulled to safety but can have devastating impacts for much longer period of time. It focuses on the human story, and not on the environmental impacts, however still very much painting BP as the bad guys.
This is not your average disaster film. This is a powerful depiction of ordinary people forced into a horrific situation that will take a hold of you, gripping you until its final moments and will likely play on your mind even after that.