Deepwater Horizon review: ‘I can’t remember a film where I had so little idea of what was going on’

Deepwater Horizon, starring Mark Wahlberg. Picture: David Lee

Deepwater Horizon, starring Mark Wahlberg. Picture: David Lee - Credit: Archant

All explosions and buckling metal, this “true story of real life heroes” conveys terrifying sense of confusion of BP oil rig disaster

Near the beginning of this re-staging of the 2010 BP oil rig disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, there is a scene that will chime with anyone frustrated by the general inaudibility of dialogue in Hollywood films. While flying in by helicopter Mr. Jimmy (Kurt Russell) notices something happening on his rig that he doesn’t approve of. As the helicopter lands he interrogates the welcoming committee about it beneath the din of the still whirling blades. Afterwards he is asked what they said and admits that he couldn’t hear a thing.

It’s a nice touch but a little too close to the bone for a film that is a purgatory of exposition. Its first half is spent trying, and largely failing, to explain what is happening on the Deepwater Horizon, a floating station that researched new reserves before other rigs came in to do the drilling.

First, Mark Wahlberg’s daughter gives us a trial run of her school presentation about daddy’s job. Then on the rig, men in helmets talk about pressure, mud, cement. The second half is all explosions and buckling metal – you can’t hear anything but fire and the explosions are their own exposition. Outside of certain European arthouse epics, I can’t remember a film where I had so little idea of what was going on.

Deepwater doesn’t seem to have had the budget to quite do justice to the spectacle, but the fast editing and close up, hand held shots really get across a terrifying sense of chaos and confusion. The rig seems to be bursting at its seams with deadly rivets springing from the walls and bulleting through the air. It’s not top draw but it races you along and makes its points effectively.


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The film is described as “A True Story of Real Life Heroes.” And there was you thinking that this was an ecological disaster caused by a cavalier corporation obsessed with maximizing profit. Hollywood can find a heroic angle to everything it seems, but in this case the heroics are just there as a hook to involve audiences in an expose of corporate indifference and carelessness.

For a look at the Arrow boxset of six early Woody Allen Films, particularly Bananas and Everything You Wanted to Know About Sex, and Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children go to halfmanhalfcritic.weebly.com

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