Deepwater Horizon (2016)

[6.5]

Mark Wahlberg and Kurt Russell headline this true story about the largest oil drilling disaster in American history. Deepwater Horizon is essentially a disaster movie in the grand tradition of that subgenre, but director Peter Berg is sensitive to the fact that 11 men lost their lives in the 2010 tragedy and that crude oil flooded the Gulf of Mexico as a result. BP Oil is portrayed as the money-hungry monsters they really are, incarnate in a cold but (always) quirky performance from John Malkovich. The first third of the film is build-up to the disaster, with Russell representing the oil rig workers against Malkovich’s character, who wants to keep drilling despite growing safety concerns. The second act is about trying to stop the disaster from getting any worse, and the final act is about getting out alive. The action is tense and visceral, but not as self-indulgent as many other Hollywood movies of this sort. Kudos to Berg for portraying Wahlberg’s character as something more than a He-Man superhero. The end of the film sees him struggling with a nervous breakdown and post-traumatic stress. That, to me, is when Deepwater Horizon became a comparatively honorable telling of real people’s lives.

With Kate Hudson, Gina Rodriguez, and Dylan O’Brien.

Oscar Nominations: Best Sound Editing, Best Visual Effects

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