This one was certainly a surprise! When I saw that there was going to be a movie about the Deepwater Horizon disaster, I initially groaned. Maybe the world has made me jaded but the first thing that I thought of was that BP paid the right people to make a pro oil message to soften the fact that they annihilated the ecosystem in the Gulf of Mexico, a disaster that is still seeing its effects to this day.
But man was I wrong. Well, okay, the first moment that I saw John Malkovich show up as one of the people representing BP, I had a huge sigh of relief. Thank god they casted the best villain they possibly could for this role. At least I know that BP are the bad guys hear. But all joking aside, going into this thinking that this is going to be a pro oil movie and walking out feeling better about life knowing that I saw an amazing disaster movie about the people who worked on board the boat during the day the leak occurred. This movie certainly was a surprising gem and one that may very walk away with a few Oscar nominations for sound editing and effects.
The film opens with the real recordings of Mike Williams accounts on the Deepwater Horizon on the day of the accident. After a few establishing shots and some story exposition, we cut to the crew heading to the boat just off the coast of Louisiana. On the day of the accident, we are introduced to Mike Williams (Mark Wahlberg), Jimmy Harrell (Kurt Russell), and Andrea Fleytas (Gina Rodriguez) who are three workers and operators of the Deepwater Horizon. We later discover that the drilling is three weeks behind schedule, the cement crew to help stabilize the pipe did not complete their job, and that the safety regulations at the moment are not ideal. Upon continued pressure from BP executive, Donald Vidrine (John Malkovich), the crew goes ahead with running tests for the drilling cycle. Even with some warnings, drilling continues which eventually leads to the massive blowout on the Deepwater Horizon and the subsequent fire that engulfed the boat. The movie then follows are protagonists as they try to save the pipe from breaking and survive the floating inferno.
The Perfect Disaster Movie Build
Some of the biggest mistakes that disaster movies make is that they cannot lock down their pacing. The standard is you have the “peaks and valleys” where you have intense action, cool down, intense action, cool down, rinse, wash, and repeat. Nothing necessarily wrong with this since it is the standard. But it certainly can get formulaic and tiresome quickly. Others, and typically, lesser disaster movies will take the route of having a little bit of exposition AND THEN RAMPING IT UP 150% AND STAYING THERE UNTIL THE END! Which kind of sucks when you can’t breathe at any moment of the film as your body is bombarded with high impact disaster.
Deepwater Horizon hits the sweet spot in the latter of the two by having some good exposition and then when shit hits the fan, it stays at a consistent, upbeat, but breathable level of action. Sure, the shit is going on all around them and this boat is nothing more than a floating inferno. But there are still moments where we can breathe and not have to worry about being completely engulfed in flames. It is a good build and one that is paced to perfection. It keeps things upbeat but doesn’t overload us with imagery.
Effects and Sound Editing Are Stellar
Granted, this movie is probably going to be handidly beaten in the Oscars by Star Wars: Rogue One coming out in December, nothing really anyone can do on that end unless a Star Wars movie bombs… Which it won’t. But Deepwater Horizon is certainly going to be taking a few Oscar nominations and a handful of other awards for the editing, effects, and sound editing that they do in this film.
Movies like this tend to be built upon being technical marvels. The Oscars are one hell of a flawed system so movies like Deepwater Horizon will never see anything close to best picture or all that stuff unless they have a HUGE zeitgeist behind them like Titanic for example. Now I’m not saying that Deepwater Horizon should be nominated for Best Picture and all that good stuff. But what I am saying is that a movie like this tends to focus on technical achievement to get those nominations and they most certainly did just that with its amazing sound editing, editing, and special effects work.
Some Wounds are Still a Little Fresh
I could give this movie some minor ticks for being a movie that did not adequately flesh out all of the characters as well as the fact that some of the acting was ‘meh.’ But really, the biggest down, even if it is a minor down, is the fact that the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill is still something that just feels a little too “fresh” in our minds to be making movies out of that we are to go see and consume. It was a similar situation when United 93 was released. Something about it just feels a little raw and a little like capitalism is certainly turning tragedy into a profit real quick. I guess five years is the line when it comes to movies about real life tragedies.
Certainly the movie handles the situation with tact and doesn’t sensationalize the death of the people on the boat. But man, there is still a feeling of uncomfortableness when you watch this movie and have flashbacks to five years ago and the death of all those people, animals, and ecosystems.
Deepwater Horizon is an excellent movie and one of the best disaster movies that has been made in years. The editing and effects of this movie are astounding, the story focuses on the lives of those who were on the boat that day, and it has the perfect pacing to keep you interested but not tire you with its peaks and valleys of action sequences. Sure, the subject may be a little raw at this point to make a movie on it. But beyond that and a few minor errors in the screenplay and acting, it is certainly a movie that merits a watch.
Final Score 4.5/5
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