Deepwater Horizon (2016)

It isn’t Friday but I felt so strongly about this movie and Fridays are for Vampire movies this month, so I decided to address it today!

Deepwater Horizon (2016)
 Dir. Peter Berg
 Writ. Matthew Michael Carnahan, Matthew Sand
 Stars: Mark Wahlberg, Kurt Russell, Gina Rodriguez
 Rated PG-13
 107 mins.
 Action, Drama
 IMDB 7.5

I, and I suspect most people, did not expect this to be a good movie. Much like the Benghazi movie, I thought ‘Why the hell would you make a MOVIE about that?’ because how can y0u possibly make a movie about an oil spill that is actually worth watching? I honestly thought this movie would be dumb as hell.

I was wrong. I was very, very wrong.

Deepwater Horizon, named after the drilling platform that had a blowout in April of 2010 in the Gulf of Mexico and ended up being the biggest oil disaster in US history, follows Mike Williams (Mark Wahlberg) as he leaves his family and heads out for what was supposed to be 21 days on the Deepwater Horizon platform that was drilling an oil prospect for BP. Right when he and his crew mates, Jimmy Harrell (Kurt Russell) and Andrea Fleytas (Gina Rodriguez), they run into trouble with the BP higher ups calling off measures of inspection to save time and money since the operation is already 43 days behind schedule. Due to failures in the drill walls, there is a failure in the drill well while running final safety tests before heading on to the next prospect that ends in a catastrophic blowout. While Mike Williams, with the help of a young roughneck named Caleb Holloway (Dylan O’Brien), try and do what they can to save people and get them to the lifeboats, Andrea Fleytas and Jimmy Harrell try their best to keep the platform stable so it doesn’t drift.

I give such a detailed synopsis of the movie because that really is pretty much the story, and therein lies what I think is the reason this movie was so good: The beauty lies in the films simplicity. It was short, simple, straightforward, and to the point, and I honestly think that’s why it was such an intense movie.

I did not expect a disaster film to be so short. This movie was short in length and short in story line, and it worked highly to its advantage. Most other movies couldn’t get away with it, and yet this movie benefited greatly from the fact that there wasn’t a lot of character driven drama. There were no long scenes with characters giving us their story, which in most movies is the movie, and yet in this movie it’s very effective. Mike, being the main character, has an opening scene with his wife and daughter, so it gives us enough to go on that he is the main character and we think about his family when his life is in peril. We get a brief introductory scene with Andrea I suspect only because the running theme with people talking to her about her car means we needed to see her car and link her to it. Mr. Jimmy has no lead up, no character introduction other than him showing up at the airfield to be flown to Deepwater Horizon, and our introduction to the BP company men is done at the same time and with similar affect as Andrea’s car. Jimmy asks one of them to remove his magenta tie because magenta alarms are the worst alarms, and later in the film Andrea frantically calls out there there are “Magenta, magenta, magenta alarms everywhere.” And with Caleb Holloway, we don’t even get that, we have Mike meeting him on the drill floor and shooting the breeze with him for just a split moment, the same as every other person on the rig. All in all, the ‘important’ characters have just as much introduction for the most part as the basic crew members.

But it works.

On any other movie, such little character insight would be considered a bad thing, but here, the main goal, I believe, is so that we don’t only care about the main people. Our main character meets and interacts briefly with over a dozen people, and we’re made somewhat familiar with the crew mates without time being spent on anybody in particular. At the beginning we even have a moment with Mike meeting the crane operator so that later in the film, when he abandons the lifeboats to go try and stop the crane from bringing the derrick down on all of them and killing them, we recognize him from earlier and we’re affected when he gives his life trying to save the others. I don’t remember his name, I don’t remember if we even learned his name, but we met him so we recognized him. The guys in the drill control booth are the same. We only briefly met most of them, one we saw a bit more because he spoke the most as the tests were being performed, but we recognized them so we felt just as much for them as we did for the others.

Because the movie avoids unnecessary drama (I really feared that Gina Rodriguez’s character was going to have some sort of romantic whatever with somebody on the crew, and that was blissfully absent), it gets right into the action. There is just enough explanation of what’s going on for us to kind of get the point, and there’s no outlining it in layman’s terms to the audience, because it’s not important that we fully understand to get that shit is about to go very badly wrong. Everyone who went into this movie went in knowing it goes wrong, so I enjoyed the fact there was no dumbing it down to make the audience understand the intricacies of what was going on, but it wasn’t too inaccessible for people to get the idea.

It was a very intense movie, as well. There were parts where I was honestly shaking and trembling it was so intense. I kept shifting in my seat and covering my mouth at the intensity and my sister, who is thirteen, kept curling up in a ball in her seat beside me and covering her eyes. I never say this, but I might would say this movie should be Rated R, not PG-13, because that movie had my grown up self sweating and shaking. It’s pretty stupid a comedy with two ‘fucks’ will get an R rating but not a movie about something so terrible as this disaster that killed eleven people. I didn’t really expect to cry over this movie, but I found myself overcome with emotions a few times. I only actually cried at the very end, but that ‘throat tightening’ feeling of intense emotion was there multiple times. I think the fact that it focuses so greatly on the blowout and the fight for survival for the entire crew, not just individuals as much as some disaster movies do, made it more intense. I also read that an entire drilling rig was built just for this movie to be filmed on, so it’s very possible that having an actual set, not just many, many green screens and CGI lended to the possibility of the performances lending to acting intensity. All of this, the actual set piece, the lack of character drama, and the focus on the disaster itself rather than individuals, all of it amounted to a very intense, very good movie.

The acting was really good. I was skeptical, because I’m not the biggest Mark Wahlberg fan. I don’t really like him in much. Same with Kurt Russell honestly. I liked him in Sky High and Tombstone and that’s about it. Gina Rodriguez I only know from commercials for Jane the Virgin and one episode of Longmire a while back. Dylan O’Brien is, of course, a really great actor, anyone who has seen him in anything knows that, but I didn’t think he had as much of a role in this movie as he did. When it came down to it, all four of them were absolutely incredible in this movie. Honestly, everybody was good in this movie. Even the smaller players all did really good jobs in their roles.

Basically, what you can take away from this lesson I learned is that, no matter how little interest you think you may have in a movie, pay attention to what everybody else says. I only went to see this movie because, after it came out, it got RAVE reviews amongst all the movie reviewers I follow on social media, and now I can honestly see why they praised it so highly.

Definitely see this movie while you still have a chance.

My Rating: 8/10



About J. Chelsea Williford

Movie addict, reader, writer, pop culture lover.
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