Movie Review: Deepwater Horizon

Well, this took longer than I wanted. I meant to put out a review for Deepwater Horizon on Friday, but I got quite hung up on some stuff, including a piece I hope to share with you all this month if time permits. So, is Horizon worth the delay or should you save your money for The Girl on the Train next week?

After arriving at the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig Mike, played by Mark Wahlberg, finds the facilities and systems in desperate need of maintenance. Before anything could be done, the onsite BP executives want to commence drilling against protest from the employees that know the risks.

Horizon is the same movie as Sully, but with added fluff. Based on the trailer you can imagine what happens like a friend of mine did. You would think there would be a subplot with Mike’s wife, something with his daughter, and a number of other clichés you can find in similar films. Turns out, there are little to no clichés and anything involving the wife and daughter is insignificant or used in service to conveying important information to the audience.

Such clichés are often used to inject a measure of heart and sympathy into the characters before the disaster. Instead, the aforementioned fluff does that job. Elements of witty dialog and snappy interactions are spread throughout to give the characters substance and personality to latch onto. This is not exclusive to the main three you follow with supporting and minor players given ticks or traits that set them apart. Granted, they are small moments, but they put the characters in the back of your mind.

The rest of Horizon is classic Eastwood honesty. The facts of the event are presented clearly and without anything in between. You know what you are getting and it is also well made.

Coming off of Lone Survivor, Peter Berg brings a lite documentary style that keeps the focus on the characters, coupled with cinematic shots and fixed angles. During the disaster, the style changes to an action focus where everything is on fire and people are trying to save themselves. And because you were given ample time to get to know the characters with the fluff, these sequences are harrowing.

My only issue is the build up to the disaster. As a historical event, you know it was going to happen, but like Lex Luthor being evil in Batman v. Superman, I wish it were not so obvious. There are quite a few parts that show the sea floor and the interior of the pipe as it is on the verge of bursting with blatantly ominous music playing in the background. Also, they cast John Malkovich in the role of one BP executive. The man is an artist and plays his part well, but really? That is like casting a British person as a villain.

The other performances were stellar. The movie was made for Wahlberg to bring his charisma and timing to the part, despite the fact he did not bother putting on an accurate accent. Kurt Russell, in a role tailored to his natural badass persona, was perfect as the veteran roughneck Jimmy Harrell struggling to control the situation. The standout among the main characters was Gina Rodriguez as the resilient Andrea Fleytas. The second half of the film is where she shines as a strong woman reduced to a frightened mess unable to function.

Between Sully and Deepwater Horizon, it is difficult to choose the better. One is straight forward about the story and the other uses otherwise useless fluff to make you care about the people, while being up front about what went down. With Clint Eastwood’s involvement I would pick the former, but with the extra details and work put into the latter, I choose Deepwater Horizon over Sully. Whichever one you decide to see, you cannot go wrong.

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