New Movie Remembers the Deepwater Horizon Catastrophe


Fabian Brims, Staff Writer

On April 20, 2010, the mobile offshore drilling platform Deepwater Horizon exploded in the Gulf of Mexico. Eleven workers were killed in this accident that also caused the biggest marine oil spill in history and the largest environmental disaster in United States up to this day. Now six years later, director Peter Berg has decided to make a movie to show what exactly happened that night.

When he leaves his family on the morning of April 20, oil-rig-worker Mike Williams (Mark Wahlberg) doesn’t know that it’s almost (might be) for good. When he arrives at the Deepwater Horizon, it’s pretty chaotic. Workers from another company left without finishing their work, and important tests show confusing results. This leads the foreman Mr. Jimmy (Kurt Russel) to the conclusion not to start drilling, but, since they are over 40 days behind schedule, a manager from BP (John Malkovich) gives the order to start while downplaying possible risks. This turns out to be a fatal mistake for 11 of the 126 workers on the platform when a huge explosion destroys the platform and ultimately sinks it with over 340,000 gallons of crude oil leaking per day into the Gulf of Mexico for another 87 days.

Watching the trailer for this movie, it looks at first sight like a Michael Bay movie with helicopters flying over the ocean and waving U.S. flags. Luckily the  director was Peter Berg (The Kingdom, Lone Survivor). So instead of an overuse of patriotism, explosions in slow motion, and a lot of army gear, the result is a realistic movie, that doesn’t stylize people into larger-than-life-heroes but instead focuses on authenticity and its characters, all framed around a huge explosion. Berg and his authors Matthew Michael Carnahan and Matthew Sand present us a grounded story and stick to the historic facts based on the article ‘Deepwater Horizon’s Final Hours’ from the New York Times.

The center of this movie are the characters and the actors, especially Mark Wahlberg and veteran Kurt Russel, did an excellent job portraying their real-life counterparts and before the credits roll, we get to see short portrayals of the workers that lost their lives in this tragedy. The filmmakers also decided to use an almost complete life-sized model of the platform. This, together with top-notch visual effects and sound design, contributes to the realistic approach of the filmmakers. This helps to remind the audience that what happens on-screen was a real-life catastrophe, and not just some Sunday evening entertainment.

‘Deepwater Horizon’ has a lot in common with last year’s big catastrophe movie ‘Everest’: a great cast, filmed in an authentic setting, portraying a real-life-event. The movie does a great job showing what actually happened and what ultimately let to the disaster. This is what makes it an important movie that goes beyond entertaining, without being too moralizing.
Deepwater Horizon (2016); directed by Peter Berg; written by Matthew Michael Carnahan & Matthew Sand; with Mark Wahlberg, Kurt Russel, John Malkovich, Gina Rodriguez, Kate Hudson; 107 min.

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