Mike Williams (Mark Wahlberg) is the chief electronics technician whom we
meet in a prologue with his wife Felicia (Kate Hudson) and young
daughter Sydney (Stella Allen). Then we meet his friend, crew chief
Jimmy Harrell (Kurt Russell), or “Mr. Jimmy” to those who serve under
him, who has a sterling safety record—in fact, there’s an interruption
midway through to present him with an award in recognition of that.
Unfortunately, in this case he’s up against BP executive Donald Vidrine
(John Malkovich), who overrules Harrell’s insistence on extra testing of
the well before starting the flow. The script emphasizes
that the data weren’t definitive one way or another, but the film’s POV
is clearly on the side of Williams, Harrell, and cautious rig technician
Andrea Fleytas (Gina Rodriguez), to whom we also meet early on.
Mark Wahlberg positively exudes ordinary-guy rectitude,
while Kurt Russell, looking more grizzled and grumpy than ever, is the very
model of old-fashioned competence. Whatever the actual circumstances
were, it’s entirely appropriate that they should share a heroic stand
toward the close, when Williams risks his own life to rescue the boss,
who’s been injured while taking a shower as the blast strikes.
It should be clear from all this that Deepwater Horizon is not long
on subtlety, in either narrative or visual terms, but it certainly
works as a remarkably realistic, viscerally exciting recreation of a
tragedy whose impact is still being felt. Director Peter Berg’s expertise in the
action-movie medium, combined with the craftsmanship of production
designer Chris Seagers, cinematographer Enrique Chediak and editors
Colby Parker, Jr. and Gabriel Fleming—as well as the effects team—is in
constant evidence. Even Steve Jablonsky’s score make a positive
Equally important, the film manages in the midst of all the chaos not
to forget the human element. That’s true of even the secondary
characters, though few of them (aside from the well bridge crew, led by
Ethan Suplee’s Jason Anderson) get much screen time. Even Kate Hudson,
after her initial scenes, is reduced pretty much to reactive
scenes. The respectful
recognition of the eleven crew members who were killed, in the closing
credits speaks to the filmmakers’ desire to honor their memory, though
more information might have been given about the environmental impact of
the disaster—which was, of course, enormous.
Deepwater Horizon demonstrates that Peter Berg and Mark Wahlberg make a good team in telling real-life stories featuring lots of action and plenty of thrills.