Lacking in depth...

Please note the review below may contain minor spoilers - I've done my best to keep them to a minimum.

Actor turned director Peter Berg and singer turned actor Mark Wahlberg continue their career bromance, following on from their last pairing in the 2013 film Lone Survivor with another true story turned dramatical tale; taking on the events of Deepwater Horizon.

Instead of aiming to tell the story we all know - the BP oil spill of 2010 - Deepwater Horizon instead deals with the human factor, those who went to work that day upon the titular oil rig and those who never left it.

Waking up next to his beautiful wife (Felicia played by Kate Hudson), Mike (Mark Wahlberg) sets afoot plans to begin his near month long shift as a chief electrical engineer aboard the floating oil rig Deepwater Horizon - but first he needs some breakfast. Meeting up with the young Andrea (Gina Rodriguez) and his no nonsense boss Jimmy (Kurt Russell) at the Airport, the crew fly 40 miles off coast by helicopter, towards their metallic destination.

But as they arrive at their home for the foreseeable future, already something seems afoot with a nearby vessel seemingly anchored in close proximity. But all settled in, Jimmy assumes command and gathers the intentions of the nearby vessel, which is under orders by BP higher ups to prepare for an influx of cargo.

Knowing the necessary safety tests are yet to be completed, Jimmy confronts the resident BP officer in charge (Vidrine played by John Malkovich) who lays down the law, with the crew over 40 days behind schedule and costing the firm more than a million dollars per day itís time to get things moving into gear.

Itís such a startling difference having also reviewed Anthropoid just prior to this, a film that much like Deepwater Horizon tackles a true life story but in a remarkably different fashion.

For what is essentially a shallow two act film - with the team going to the oil rig, then getting off when disaster strikes - Deepwater Horizon starts off surprisingly well, creating a great sense of foreboding from the offset; from a coke can exploding in the kitchen - highlighting, albeit in microfashion exactly what is soon going to occur - to a sudden bird strike within the helicopter, giving a hint to our characters that today just might not be their day. Against these minor omens we have cuts of the camera looming down to the seabed at regular intervals giving a growing sense of escalation, unbeknownst to the crew and the wider world. What also else helps sell that tension and create sense of realism is with the off-hand dialog aboard the oil rig, with technical terms being thrown at you every direction which you will rightly make no sense of but creating a lived in feel, of a real crew with a storied history together.

Deepwater Horizon - (Mark Wahlberg, Kurt Russell, Dylan O'Brien, Gina Rodriguez, John Malkovich and Kate Hudson)

Unfortunately once Deepwater Horizon emerges from those murky depths - with all hell breaking loose - it turns into an entirely different film, from drama to a disaster movie and unfortunately not for the better. The starting point is the characters themselves, being mere Hollywood cliches. From the family man who turns into oil rig action man and in turn is seemingly part of every single aspect of the drama in some manner, to the Ďbad guysí of the film; the rich oil tycoons who would feel right at home wearing monocles and carrying around sacks full of money. For an event that was so dramatic as it is - and involved very real people - they unfortunately overcooked it with the drama, coming across as disingenuous and failing to capture the reality we know it to be.

From building half of a near perfect scale set of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig itself, to conversing with their real life counterparts each day, itís obvious the filmmakers made a real concerted effort in crafting the tale, itís a shame then that whilst their characters may be caked in mud and grit looking the part, their personalities fail to shine through and make you ultimately care for their plight. But from the perspective of a disaster flick, the production values are top notch, with CG adding a layer of bombastic action that is sure to delight genre fans who are seeking it.

Special Features

Beyond The Horizon - Separate cast interviews with all the major characters of the film that totals to nearly an hour. Thereís some great tidbits of how the cast became attached to the project and their relationships with one another.

Captain Of The Rig - A nearly 20 minute long expose on director Peter Berg and how he became attached to the project and the large knowledge base he has accumulated through it - with the aptly named Oil School. It also delves into his thought process on film making and what he aims to achieve.

The Fury Of The Rig - A 30 minute featurette detailing the construction of the gigantic near-to-scale set of the Deepwater Horizon and the immense difficulties faced for the crew. The latter half also details ILMís inclusion of extending the rig into the CG realm.

Deepwater Surveillance - Short snippets showcasing the actual raw footage - pre CG - of the various disaster scenes.

The meaty featurettes are great, giving you a better sense of filmmaking as a whole delving further into the subject matter with plenty of things I didnít know about. Unfortunately the special features are lacking a directorís commentary, negating any reason to go back and watch the entire film again.

Deepwater Horizon is a movie of two halves, the better half being a drama that ramps up into a foreboding explosion, itís just a shame then from that point on it falls into Hollywood cliche and disaster tropes we've all seen a million times before.

But with top notch production values and workable performances from the cast, fans seeking out a disaster flick will find some value in Deepwater Horizon, but at the sacrifice of a much better film never unearthed beneath its surface.

A Blu-ray review copy of Deepwater Horizon was provided by the distributor for review purposes.

  • Review by
    David Robinson

    Twitter: @5ypher

    Posted on
    29th January 2017

  • 3 Out of 5 Stars
  • Cliche characters

    Overcooked drama

    Lack of commentary

  • Great CG

    Tense foreboading


Film Info

Deepwater Horizon Deepwater Horizon
Rating: 12
Release Date: 30th January
Runtime: 1 hr 47 min
Director: Peter Berg
Starring: Mark Wahlberg, Kurt Russell, Dylan O'Brien, Gina Rodriguez, John Malkovich & Kate Hudson

  • Poseidon
  • Lone Survivor
  • San Andreas

No, theres multiple scenes of death and injury.

Mark Wahlberg and Peter Berg are currently teaming up for their third life-to-drama outing with upcoming film Patriots Day, telling the events of the Boston marathon bombing.

The film opens with a real audio clip from an investigation delved into the events that unfolded.

Father and daughter Kurt Russell and Kate Hudson have been longing to make a film together, unfortunately they only share one scene in Deepwater Horizon.