Deepwater Horizon, depicting the worst oil disaster in US history, is a film that everyone already knows the ending to. When the rig blew up six years ago, news teams were quick to show us all footage of a broken pipe pumping filth into the Gulf of Mexico and birds covered in oil unable to fly, unable to breathe.
However, as Peter Berg’s film shows us, we barely knew anything. This film’s brilliance originates from how it shows us what we weren’t shown before; the human cost of the disaster. Mass media was obsessed with the environmental toll (alluded to only twice in the entire movie) and largely forgot those who were on the rig, and who had to fight for survival.
And their story is tense. Every creak, whistle and worried face whips the viewer’s brain into a frenzy, wondering when the fatal moment will occur. The scene is set perfectly beforehand, with working-joe Mike Williams (Whalberg) and the wise old foreman Mr Jimmy (Russell) expressing their doubts well before it all goes to pot. Whalberg doesn’t possess the ripped physique we’ve seen him with in the past, but he shows more strength in this role than any he has had before.
And when it strikes, prepare to be captured by the human tragedy and chaos and pain. Moments shock, astound and upset you in equal measure as the inferno takes hold. There is no mercy with Deepwater Horizon.
The only let down in what is otherwise a perfectly judged, casted and paced film is the end montage of real-life news clips and photos, which just feels very out of place. The list of the dead, with country music played over it, doesn’t have the emotional pull it should. Much more effective is when Mr Jimmy takes a role call of survivors by shouting names only to be met with silence.
This is far more than an exhilarating and shocking piece of cinema. This is film doing what film does best, drilling beneath the surface to examine the human element of disaster. And it borders on unbelievable.
Image:David Torcivia; Flickr.com