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Deepwater Horizon: Real-Life Tragedy Makes for a Gripping Disaster Movie [Review]

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Every year or so, Hollywood throws out a disaster movie with one-note characters and cheesy visual effects to heighten the scale of the gloom and doom scenario. This year is different, however, with the release of Deepwater Horizon, a real-life account of the largest oil spill in US history that resulted in the loss of 11 lives. Thanks to a cast full of meaningful characters, Deepwater Horizon is a gripping tale about the perseverance of the human spirit and is certainly the best disaster movie in ages.

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Based on the true events that occurred on an oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico on April 20, 2010, the story chronicles the courage of those who worked on the Deepwater Horizon and the extreme moments of bravery and survival in the face of what would become one of the biggest man-made disasters in world history.


Deepwater Horizon spends more time than anticipated showing you every square foot of the oil rig. Sure, we get plenty of background on how every machine works. And while you might not understand some of the operations, director Peter Berg shows us how these machines work in harmony with the characters operating them in order to build up the anticipation for the impending doom. At the same time, we’re shown how corporate greed led to this entire catastrophe as we start to see things go haywire under the sea.

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When the darkest hour arrives, the explosion and disaster that follows is a fierce spectacle to behold. Disaster movies have always had a mix of both good and extremely bad visual effects. But with Deepwater Horizon, the visual effects are among the best of any movie to come out this year and worthy of an Oscar nomination. Authentic and intense, you feel as if the peril playing out on screen is actually happening all over again thanks to a coordinated explosion team behind the set. Some of the intense scenes that play out in Deepwater Horizon may actually be too much for viewers and push the boundary when it comes to the movie’ PG-13 rating. Along with visual effects, Deepwater Horizon might also receive nominations for sound editing and mixing (an important element often lacking in previous disaster movies), which are also grade-A compared to other movies that have been released so far this year. The level of explosions (which are also loud) might feel like something out of a Michael Bay movie, but they make sense in Deepwater Horizon given the amount of dangerous equipment and machinery shown around the vessel during the movie’s setup.

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Deepwater Horizon is led by a group of actors who give first-rate performances as the hard-working people aboard the oil rig. Mark Wahlberg (The Fighter) suits the role of the leading man, Mike Williams. Wahlberg has turned into a reliable lead actor and Deepwater Horizon only adds to his impressive résumé thanks to the sheer confidence as he demonstrates as a technician, charging forward to make sure everyone makes it off the vessel safely. Kurt Russell (The Hateful Eight) plays the hard-nosed captain of Deepwater Horizon and, in typical fashion, clearly states every argument and concisely proposes every initiative he makes. Russell has always been known for these types of roles, but as Captain Jimmy Harrell in Deepwater Horizon he delivers a different feel to his role (which is a great thing) once things go wrong.

In smaller roles, Gina Rodriguez (star of the hit CW series Jane the Virgin) begins her jump into the Hollywood tentpoles quite nicely here as a navigating engineer. Dylan O’Brien (The Maze Runner), who plays a floor hand, continues to show why he is an up-and-comer in Hollywood. And finally, John Malkovich (Con Air) plays a sly BP executive, directing those aboard the oil rig to continue full speed ahead despite all the initial concerns. Malkovich, who tries pulling off a southern Louisiana accent, does a fine job by not making it too obvious that his character is essentially the antagonist of Deepwater Horizon.

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Deepwater Horizon is a disaster movie like no other because the events that transpire in the movie actually occurred in the real world. Director Peter Berg does not shy away when it comes to showing BP in a bad light. The BP logo is present, and rightfully so, in a few key scenes before things go wrong; BP overlooked the red flags aboard Deepwater Horizon in an effort to save costs on repairs and churn out more money until the vessel literally could not function anymore. This effort to try and save money not only resulted in the loss of 11 lives, but over 200 million gallons of oil being spilled into the ocean.

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Personally, I was not a fan of Lone Survivor, director Berg’s previous movie based on a true story, because in that movie, the story told on screen was, in fact, nowhere near as big as what the actual intel reports suggest. With Deepwater Horizon, Berg rebounds by paying tribute with veracity, and more importantly respect, to the real-life heroes that worked on the oil rig.

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Fan of Atlanta Braves baseball, movies/tv, and all things Batman. Healthcare Program Coordinator by day, honey walnut shrimp aficionado by night.