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Deepwater Horizon review

"Can we tame the dinosaurs? "

One of the challenges in depicting a real life disaster is to develop the characters involved enough for audiences to care for them despite knowing the conclusion. Peter Berg has proven his ability to direct stories of real life heroes in amongst tragic situations with 2013’s Lone SurvivorPartnering with one of his favourite lead actors, Mark Wahlberg, he explores the events behind the BP disaster of 2010.

Deepwater Horizon centres on the tenuous relationship between the workers who have constructed the oil drilling rig and the organisation that is looking to profit from their efforts. Berg and his team look at some of the key decisions that lead to the eventual explosion that caused the deaths of 11 men and created the worst oil spill in the history of the United States.

thumbnail_24164Events like the BP catastrophe are usually filled with drama that provide a multitude of angles for a film studio to capitalize on. The challenge is maintaining a level of respect and cognitive distance to keep the film balanced, informative and entertaining without becoming a documentary. Berg manages to do all of these things by honoring the men and women who were central to the story. He does provide studied evidence to the issues behind the debacle and keeps the marked pressure on the storyline to deliver a powerful depiction of these events. Deepwater Horizon successfully portrays everyday workers and proves that anyone can be a hero when forced into extraordinary situations.
Wahlberg and Kurt Russell are magnificent in their roles as the construction engineers who represent the barrier between human ingenuity and corporate greed. John Malkovich delivers the right balance of villainous intent and corporate pressure to show that the real evil lies in the hearts of man and not in the ocean floor. This is where Berg capitalized on bringing the central element to the whole film, the Deepwater Horizon oil rig. The visual effects manage to show that through all of the marvels that man has attempted to achieve, many times the earth cannot be tamed. He brings this character in from the beginning and proves the magnificent power that still lies beneath our feet. 

Like watching Titanic, the inevitable conclusion is not as important as the journey. What begins as a routine day on the job, turns into a violent and heroic endeavour that had a far reaching impact on these involved and the rest of the world. Peter Berg delivers a remarkable bit of story telling that is respectful and confronting. 

  • Mark Wahlberg and Kurt Russell performances
  • The special effects
  • The clichéd corporate executives

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Russell is an American ex-pat who has been transplanted in his new home of Sydney. He is a reviewer for Insights Magazine and the blog Russelling Reviews. He moderates events called Reel Dialogue (reeldialogue.com) which connects the film industry with the general public.

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