Deepwater Horizon is a commercially-packaged dramatisation of one of the most infamous natural disasters of recent history – the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Mark Wahlberg stars as the salt-of-the-earth hero, Mike Williams who, along with Jimmy Harrell (Kurt Russell), Andrea Fleytas (Gina Rodriguez) and others, managed to escape the explosive devastation of the titular oil rig, which killed 11 people in 2010.
The film feels deeply authentic, taking time to engross viewers in small chat and operational lingo, while building remarkable tension until disaster inevitably strikes. Deepwater Horizon is gripping and rewarding entertainment that actually has some flesh on its bones.
During its catastrophic finale, an overweight, middle-aged male corporate executive looks up in horror at the infernal wreck towering over a distressed American flag. Here is the sum of human industrialism, of greedy capitalist actions, of environmental exploitation. It’s a potent, topical message once deconstructed and one that director Peter Berg seemingly wants to accentuate, whether you recognise it or not.
That shouldn’t mislead you into thinking that Deepwater Horizon is a meticulous piece of nuanced cinema, not quite. It is, however, efficient and effective dramatic filmmaking that delivers an immersive and unexpectedly emotional experience – with some explosions.