Director Peter Berg keeps to the template of disaster movies like The Towering Inferno, by following a key character or two before tragedy strikes. Only this time it’s not fiction but about a real catastrophe that took 11 lives on an oil rig in 2010.
The tension is built up with an impending sense of doom right from the word ‘go’. There’s a startling bird strike that shakes up the group heading for the oil rig. Even when chief technician Mike Williams is playing dad at home, his little daughter’s can of cola bursts with the pressure mounting inside it, indicative of what’s coming his way on the oil rig.
And that’s precisely what happened to set off one of America’s worst ecological disasters.
In its reenactment, Peter Berg doesn’t fight shy of putting the oil company in question on the mat. When a vital cement test to ensure that the pressure of the well is under control, is bypassed by the company, it’s a clear case of wanting to finish the work with minimum extra expense. But that comes with a heavy price tag especially in terms of human lives lost.
Thematically, this is an important piece of cinema for reminding the world, especially the US of A, of the price that’s paid when humans cause an ecological tragedy.
Cinematically, Berg plays it safe with conventional wisdom. There’s a bit of superstition over a magenta coloured tie and stuffy suits representing the oil company. Then Mike has a lovely wife he flirts with over the computer screen and a daughter he adores, to go back to. But he’s also heroic, so he stays back on the rig until he’s rescued every colleague. It’s formulaic to the extent that when Andrea, the sole woman on the rig who’s shown to be good with motorbikes and mechanics, raises a May Day alarm, she’s dissed by the male colleague who tells her there’s a difference between a kick and a blowout. She turns out to be right as it is a blowout of epic proportions but the same Andrea ends up as the typical hysterical female in distress who has to be rescued by our man Mike. Don’t also miss everybody going down on their knees for a community prayer.
But Mark Wahlberg makes a watchable Mike. The cinematography by Enrique Chediak is effective as jets of seawater and oil spew out before the fire rages and the oil rig breaks up.
For a disaster movie that keeps to tradition but is an important reminder to mankind, Deepwater Horizon gets a 3-star rating.