Deepwater Horizon (2016) Review

If there were such a thing as a ‘True Story’ shared cinematic universe (okay, I guess technically there is), the authorities of that universe would no doubt be monitoring Mark Wahlberg very closely indeed. His presence at the sites of natural disasters or terrorist attacks is becoming so common, he’s almost the Stan Lee of real life drama.

Retelling the story of the Deepwater Horizon disaster which cost eleven lives and resulted in the largest marine oil spill in history is a sensitive task, given the recency of the events and the controversy surrounding the aftermath but Director Peter Berg, no stranger to directing real life drama – or Mark Wahlberg for that matter – skilfully avoids sensationalising the drama by adopting a quasi-documentary tone.

While this does much to remove the potential sting of the real life tragedy, it does somewhat leave the audience adrift in a script heavy with technical jargon. Thanks to the skills of the cast and their performances, you catch much of the drift of what’s going on but it feels a little lazy to rely on the audience’s foreknowledge rather than finding an organic way to provide the exposition which would be supplied by a narrator were this really a documentary.

While the film does an excellent job of showing the run up to the disaster and the explosion and chaos itself, overall “Deepwater Horizon” feels like a movie missing its third act. After all the pyrotechnic savagery of the accident itself, most of the meaty drama of the event took place in the weeks and months afterwards. Aside from appropriately memorialising the individuals who died in the explosion, the film doesn’t show us much of anything to do with the catastrophic environmental damage which occurred, the struggles to finally cap off the well or the grubby corporate and legal manoeuvrings which followed.

Technically proficient and tastefully handled, “Deepwater Horizon” nevertheless feels unfinished and underwhelming. In delivering a glossy but sincere disaster movie, it misses the chance to create a powerful indictment on not only the incident itself, but everything that followed.

7/10 

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