By Alys Miller
Peter Berg and Mark Wahlberg have teamed up again to create another fantastically acted and directed true story about Deepwater Horizon, an oil rig situated in the Gulf of Mexico which tragically exploded when mandatory safety tests weren’t being conducted and the results of others were ignored. The combination of compelling CGI, heart rending scoring and diverse acting creates a new cinematic masterpiece to the list of 2016 classics.
Berg successfully brings a catastrophic story back to the frontline of interest by delivering stunning, emotive performances, heart stopping scenes and perfect storytelling. Mark Wahlberg takes on the role of Mike Williams, a Chief of Electronics Technician assigned to Deepwater Horizon to assess its functionality. Other characters include Jimmy Harrell, the leader of the crewmen (Kurt Russell), Andrea Fleytas, a coordinator in the rig control room (Gina Rodriguez), Don Vidrine, a BP supervisor (John Malkovich) and Caleb Holloway, one of the rig’s operators (Dylan O’Brien). An unusual cast one would argue but certainly one where each actor has the ability to fulfill an enormous amount of potential.
The film goes through the events of the disastrous explosion step by step in numerous amounts of nail biting, jargon filled scenes which eventually leads to the bursting of the main oil pipe, sending thousands of gallons of oil and mud shooting up through rig and catching fire. Williams (Mark Wahlberg) selflessly aids those who are injured to safety and saves the lives of many people.
When taking my seat, I was apprehensive about what I was about to witness. On occasions, the sensitivity of true life events is lost and caught up in glamour and action and explosions. An unrealistic image is painted of the events which can sometimes make it feel fiction. When I am watching something that is based on a true story, I want it to feel like it’s real. Berg has plenty of experience in directing true stories (Lone Survivor, Friday Night Lights) and his delicate approach to this story is no different to his previous.
The camera work changes between scenes, going from calm and steady to chaotic and handheld which perfectly illustrates the abruptness of the unexpected explosion. It mirrors the character’s trauma and allows the viewer to connect personally with each character in the scene. The slow motion that’s incorporated is heart stopping and the empathy that one feels when watching those scenes is uncontrollable. Initially, I was worried that Mark Wahlberg wouldn’t be unable to pull away from his comedy typecast in order to fulfill his potential to create a moving story. In the beginning, there’s mild humour attached to the script which unsettled me, but in the third act, Wahlberg is let free to fulfill his acting ability. Instead of the strong, egotistical character that he normally takes on, this character is vulnerable and Wahlberg manages to pull off a perfectly accurate, vulnerable performance. Kurt Russell is another who has had a mixture of roles over the years, but this is one of his strongest performances with his loveable character ‘Mr Jimmy’ drawing the most amount of empathy after his hard work and the safety he tried to ensure for his crew members is shattered. Steve Jablonsky is the composer of the film. He’s worked previously with Peter Berg on Lone Survivor, thus the scoring works in perfect harmony with the picture by both heightening the drama and creating a sense of raw emotion.
A downside to the picture, is that the script is fairly average. There’s no real strength in it, despite how hard the actors try to incorporate it. There’s nothing iconic about it, nothing moving about it and it seems like all of the fervor and intensity has been left for the editors to take care of. There was so much to work with that I find the script almost lazy.
However, the end credits complete what the entirety of the films sets out to do and honours the 11 who lost their lives in a touching, tear jerking tribute. The film as a whole is spectacular, with performances that deviate from the actors’ norms, thus making them thrive and perform to the high standard needed in order to create an emotive piece that accurately reflects on the events that occurred in 2010.