By Claire Alongi,
There is nothing subtle about “Deepwater Horizon;” that’s mostly a compliment. Director Peter Berg’s new film is tense, over the top, graphic and in your face. But thanks to a strong cast and a different take on a well-known event, “Horizon” is a gripping old-school disaster movie.
Berg tackles a fresh wound in “Horizon,” which chronicles the catastrophic Macondo oil well blowout below the Deepwater Horizon oil rig in 2010. The spill dumped over 100 million gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico. While most media coverage after the fact focused on the devastating environmental effect and the destruction of the fishing industry in the Gulf, Berg lets his cameras roll on a largely overlooked aspect of the incident: the human aspect.
In fact, for all its fire and gore– of which there is still plenty, and not for the faint of heart– only about half the movie focuses on the actual metal screeching, water on fire, mega-explosion of the Deepwater Horizon. A great part of the film is just following the people, establishing the routine, seeing the relationships that bind crew members to each other and to their families and quite successfully building tension for an event the audience already knows is coming. The lead up to the inevitable could have felt drawn out and boring, but the film’s cast doesn’t let that happen.
Mark Wahlberg leads the film as Mike Williams, the Chief Electronics Technician and heart of “Horizon”. Kurt Russell also shines as steadfast Mr. Jimmy, the supervisor of the rig, and John Malkovich is the wonderfully malicious BP official Don Vidrine who oozes greed with every word he says in a well mastered Cajun accent. Gina Rodriguez and Dylan O’Brien round out the standouts of “Horizon;” both younger actors prove they can keep up with the greats and have the chops to take on meatier roles.
And, thanks to the above-mentioned cast, even when the oil starts spewing and the fire starts flying, the movie manages to ground itself in the crew members of the Horizon as they fight to save themselves and the rig.
In this day and age of sequel after sequel, superhero movie after superhero movie, “Horizon” is a well-needed break. It may be a little black and white when looking at shades of morality, and while mostly serving the movie, its lack of subtlety can be a little laughingly obvious at times. With those things aside, “Deepwater Horizon” is a solid, and at times humbling, film about the best and worst of humans when facing nature, and each other.