“Deepwater Horizon” is not your usual box office flop. It’s a well-crafted film with realistic special effects and genuine suspense. All reports show that it failed to make back its described budget of $156 million. That’s a shame because it’s a worthy tribute to the heroic men and women aboard the doomed offshore drilling rig.
The biggest mistake you could make about this movie is fearing the words “based on true events.” “Deepwater Horizon” has more action and thrills than most summer movies. I found myself clinching my teeth uncontrollably at times. You don’t have to be familiar with the tragic explosion in the Gulf of Mexico to be entertained or enlightened.
The film tells the story of how safety was put on the back burner by BP in the Spring of 2010, placing the lives of 126 workers at risk. The oil company was pressuring its contractor, Transocean, to begin drilling despite many across-the-board glitches plaguing the semi-submersible platform and the inadequate testing of the concrete product used to keep the oil and mud at bay until the drillers were ready for it. Eleven workers died on April 20, 2010 and this effectively made tribute makes you wonder why no one was ever sent to prison over what happened.
One element working against “Deepwater Horizon” is that the story doesn’t adequately zero-in on the characters. We don’t learn as much about engineer Mike Williams (Mark Wahlberg) as we do about “Sully” Sullenberger (Tom Hanks) in “Sully.” Williams is one of the unsung heroes that day on the Deepwater Horizon, but there were others, too. Rather than focusing strictly on William’s viewpoint, the film is more about “all” the heroes on the rig that night. The lack of focus works against the film, despite some good efforts by the cast. Kurt Russell does well with the screen time he’s given as rig supervisor Jimmy Harrell. Kate Hudson is forgettable as William’s wife. But, the heroics of navigator Andrea Fleytas were well-played by Gina Rodriguez. John Malkovich isn’t given much to do except grin his evil grin as the top BP official on the rig.
“Deepwater Horizon” is well-directed by Peter Berg, who is developing a knack for the action genre. He takes a true story and puts a Hollywood stamp on it without making it feel cheap or exploitive. I can’t say you see all $152 million up there on the screen, but there’s nothing second-rate about this movie. It tells an emotional story that will have you pondering how such greedy oil executives could get away with the deaths of the eleven Deepwater Horizon workers and not do time in jail. Grade: A-