Back in 2010, one of the biggest oil spills in the US happened when BP International became the subject of headlines due to the massive damage caused by the explosion of its oil rig, the Deepwater Horizon off the Gulf of Mexico. This film depicts the events leading up to the fateful explosion and how it affected the lives of the crewmen on board the rig during the time of the disaster.
When Mike Williams (Mark Wahlberg), “Mr Jimmy” Harrell (Kurt Russell) and Andrea Fleytas (Gina Rodriguez) are brought in to the Deepwater Horizon oil rig for a routine deployment, they are surprised to learn that the crew hired to perform the cementing process are being sent home without testing the cement that they applied, all because BP executives (John Malkovich) want to cut costs and speed up their operations due to delays. Mr. Jimmy , who is in charge of the oil rig is furious at the executives’ decision so he orders negative testing to double check whether the rig will perform normally despite the shortcuts ordered by the bosses. Unfortunately, politics and business get in the way and pretty soon, Mr. Jimmy’s warnings prove correct and the company is left with a major disaster in its hands.
When the BP oil spill broke out in 2010, it was a major news item in the world mainly because of the magnitude of the disaster and the damage it caused to the environment. Because of the mishap, investigation after investigation on the safety processes involved in the operations for the oil industry were conducted by the US government leading to reforms in the policies and laws governing the trade.
What I appreciated about Deepwater Horizon’s take on the disaster was that it focused on the people who were directly affected by the disaster. The film gave face to the men and women on that rig who did their best to perform their duties but were unfortunately strong-armed by executives who were only concerned with schedules and profits, at the cost of the lives and safety of their employees.
Such was the case at the Deepwater Horizon on the fateful day that it exploded. In a way, DW felt more like a war movie than a biographical disaster film because it was able to convey the strong bond at the core of the relationships of the characters. The respect and loyalty for Mr. Jimmy was so strong that everyone on board listened to him and respected his opinion, much like a ship’s captain. Mike was guy that everybody liked but when push came to a shove, everyone knew that he was the guy who knew how to get things done, and that was what he did on board that oil rig.
I liked that this film was about a disaster but it was more about people. While most films who deal with an ensemble cast often sacrifice the character building for the sake of balancing the exposure of the stars, DW made sure that audiences establish a connection with each of the characters before it dished out the disaster.(This film also had Dylan O’Brien and Kate Hudson in the cast)
This made the disaster have even more of an impact on the audience because by the time the action was climaxing, they were already rooting for the characters to survive. The dramatic moments were made effective by the characters’ vulnerabilities. No one was portrayed as a superhero but only as people who tried to survive but will forever be marked by the events that happened that night.
I liked that the movie did not oversell the disaster and made it function like a backdrop instead of the main event. There were acts of heroism along the way and there were dramatic moments of note but it wasn’t done hysterical or overboard. Because the disaster was already a given, director Peter Berg took his time to tell his story at his own pace based on the accounts of the people who survived, making it more real and personal.
By the way, kudos to the way the physics of the matter was simply explained by Mike’s daughter while in the kitchen and the way it was illustrated through the can of soda was an excellent touch to shed light on an otherwise technical issue. It was a brilliant way to ensure that all of the viewers understood what was happening in simple terms.
All in all, Deepwater Horizon was a fitting tribute to the men and women of the fateful oil rig who were the victims of a company’s wrong priorities. Lives were lost and so were billions of dollars because there were people who only focused on statistics and even treated people like numbers on a page. Excellent performances across the board. Effective on all counts.