365 Movies By Day Reviews of Movies I Watch that I Feel Like Writing About


Deepwater Horizon (2016)

If you're going to make a big-budget disaster movie, it might as well be based on a true story. Personally, I'm so over the huge blockbuster disaster movies like The Day After Tomorrow, Poseidon, Independence Day, The Core, Volcano, Into the Storm, Armageddon (which I actually really like), San Andreas (which I also kind of liked), Dante's Peak...the list goes on and on. The point of these movies, and so many others, is to make a big buck. Forget about the plausibility, most of these movies are utterly ridiculous. The hero(es) always overcome the most extreme circumstances and, often, end up saving the world in the end. Now while the 2010 disaster which caused the worst offshore oil spill in United States history and made British Petroleum (BP) the most villainous company on the face of the planet at the time, the story of Deepwater Horizon does take some liberties along the way. While the unfortunate events on that night of April 10th certainly did happen, the events on that rig felt very much like James Cameron's Titanic after the ship hits the iceberg. 

Ironically, this film stars Mark Wahlberg (The Fighter, Lone Survivor) as Mike Williams, the Chief Electronics Technician aboard Deepwater Horizon, the rig located in the Gulf Mexico which, during one scene in the film, was recognized by BP for being its safest vessel, an award that it had won multiple times before. The reason I used the word ironically is because this movie often felt like The Perfect Storm, a movie that I absolutely loved. Just like in Deepwater Horizon, Wahlberg's character played a second in command type character, but who really was the focal character of the movie. And just like The Perfect Storm, Wahlberg's character and his significant other had trepidations about this particular voyage out to sea. And just like in the case of both movies, Wahlberg's character was often the source of reason and the man who really was heroic. Now there are major differences. What happened on the Andrea Gail in The Perfect Storm was really never known. Sure there we knew that three major storms collided and, yes, there was some communication back to the mainland at first. But what really happened on that fishing boat was completely dramatized. No one knows for sure because (spoiler alert) there were no survivors. So while, to me, that movie was magnificently made, it wasn't a true representation of events. Deepwater Horizon had many survivors to tell the story and, thus, this movie is far more real than The Perfect Storm could ever be. Where there heroics in Deepwater Horizon? Absolutely there were. But to make it appeal to the moviegoers, there was certainly some Hollywoodization.

This movie was directed by Peter Berg (Lone Survivor, Friday Night Lights) who is known for bringing real life stories to film. In addition to the ones mentioned, Berg also directed the soon to be released Patriots Day (Boston Marathon bombing movie) which is already in discussion for Oscar consideration. Deepwater Horizon won't be there in that discussion. In my opinion, isn't nearly the movie that Lone Survivor or Friday Night Lights is, but it is still a well-made movie and a movie that was brought to the big screen to inform the public of the untold story of the brave men and women aboard the oil rig on that disastrous night. The other big players in the film are Mr. Jimmy Harrell (Kurt Russell - Backdraft, Tombstone), the businesslike Offshore Installation Manager and essentially the crew boss of the entire rig, Andrea Fleytas (Gina Rodriguez), the Dynamic Positioning Operator, and Donald Vidrine (John Malkovich - In the Line of Fire, Of Mice and Men), the BP Executive/Nighttime Rig Supervisor and the ultimate antagonist in the movie.

BP in need of meeting the demands of its stakeholders (particularly its company's shareholders) really put the pressure on Mr. Jimmy and his crew to find oil. Already 43 days behind, Vidrine and his BP colleagues needed oil and needed it now. Mr. Jimmy was a by the books type of crew chief. He's they type of boss you like and respect at the same time. Whenever he was on the well, he was the ultimate professional. Even when he was with his most trusted co-workers (such as Mike), he still didn't let his guard down. The safety of his crew was his number one importance. There wasn't even a number two on his list of importance. As Mr. Jimmy, Mike, and Andrea arrive on the well via helicopter, they are told that the cement log that a previous time was supposed to conduct had not been conducted. Mr. Jimmy is not happy and this stirs a strong of events that go the wrong way. Vidrine's pressure forces Mr. Jimmy to make decisions he isn't comfortable making and the result is...well..disastrous.

The 99-minute movie features about 45 minutes of setting things up and about 54 minutes of action. Sometimes it's difficult to know when enough is enough of the backstory before you get to the excitement. In Deepwater Horizon, I felt that the better part of the movie was actually the setup. I really liked learning about each character and how the oil rig worked. While I felt that there were far too many characters to keep track of (including Dylan O'Brien and Ethan Suplee), I appreciated learning the responsibility of each crew member on board. Kate Hudson (Almost Famous, The Skeleton Key) played Mike's wife Felicia. She was a complete waste in this movie. His wife could have been played by anyone and it further exemplifies, to me, that there is a shortage of great female roles out there. Hudson is a fantastic actress and she should be involving herself in movies where she gets more than 10 short minutes of screen time.

Once the rig explodes, the movie becomes very similar to that of other disaster movies. At times I lost interest. The sound was awful. The background noise was too loud at times that you could hardly hear the characters. There were too many transitions from one scene to another. It was hard to identify where each character was relative to the vessel. It just wasn't as well done as it could have been. Up until the start of the explosion, this movie was on pace to receive a score of an A. It was rivaling, at times, Sully. Sully had a similar premise to Deepwater Horizon. Berg's movie was a much more difficult shoot than Clint Eastwood's Sully. The reward could have been there. But Deepwater Horizon didn't have the same pacing as Sully. Sully also benefited from its fantastic use of time sequencing, transitioning masterfully between past events and what was happening in the present. Deepwater Horizon COULD have done that, but didn't. It set up the story well so that it could make the action sequences meaningful. But, at least for me, the action was nothing special.

Likewise, the ending felt unrealistic. These characters did not seem as affected by the traumatic events that they went through as they should have been. That's neither here nor there, but I think the movie could have ended five minutes earlier if that was the direction Berg decided to take it in.

Deepwater Horizon is worth seeing. The BP oil spill was something all of us remembers. There was thick gobs of covering The Gulf of Mexico for years and all kinds of wildlife were killed because of the decisions made on that vessel. This movie provides some insight into what happened on April 10, 2010. After viewing the film, I encourage you to look at fact vs fiction on http://www.historyvshollywood.com/reelfaces/deepwater-horizon. Of course, we want all of our movies to follow the story to a T, but we also know that sometimes, as in the instance of Sully, that you don't always have enough of a conflict if you do that. We want conflict in our movies. That's what makes many of them exciting. So sometimes you have to substitute some of what actually did happen with something a little more exciting just to keep the flow of a big budget movie going. That's what happened in Sully and that's what happens in Deepwater Horizon too. It's still a movie worth watching, though it's a movie that I would probably watch at home rather than spend the big bucks to see it in the theater.

Plot 10/10
Character Development 8/10
Character Chemistry 7.5/10
Acting 7.5/10
Screenplay 8.5/10
Directing 8/10
Cinematography 10/10
Sound 8/10
Hook and Reel 8.5/10
Universal Relevance 10/10

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  1. This review couldn’t be more SPOT ON.

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