Rated PG-13

107 Minutes

Released September 30th

Deepwater Horizon is based on the true story of the devastation caused by the explosion of the oil-drilling rig of that name. In order to better comprehend the chaos you will witness in this film, a brief exposition of some of the facts is necessary. You may remember watching the news unfold. The Deepwater Horizon, owned by BP Oil, was a semi-submersible, mobile floating drilling rig able to operate in waters up to 10,000 feet deep to find oil and then drill miles into the ocean floor to extract it. On April 20, 2010, methane gas from the well expanded under high pressure into the drilling riser and rose into the rig where it ignited and exploded, engulfing the platform. 126 crewmembers were on board. Eleven workers were never found. The rig sank on April 22, 2010.

This incident is most widely known as the Deepwater Horizon/ or BP Oil Spill. Following the explosion a sea-floor oil gusher flowed for 87 days creating the largest accidental marine oil spill in the history of the industry. Satellite images show the spill directly impacted 68,000 square miles of ocean (about the size of Oklahoma). It affected the waters of the Gulf of Mexico and surrounding coastland, marshes and wildlife, and had great impact on the health and economy of the entire region.

The movie covers the tragic aspect of this story that tends to be overlooked: the loss of eleven crewmembers who were working on the rig on that day. We tend to remember the ecological devastation caused by the incident. However, we need to recall both aspects, and consider that public opinion at the time looked to blame the eleven killed for causing the spill, when in reality they died while fighting to stop it. The opening scenes are very chaotic, depicting a lack of communication and order. This was undoubtedly a realistic portrayal of the environment on the Deepwater Horizon on that day.

Kurt Russell noted in a Q&A after my screening the need to dig deep to portray his character “Mr. Jimmy”. Russell managed to embrace the role with just the right attitude. “Mr. Jimmy” seems very real –his character specifically resembles a native of Louisiana whom I’ve known for many years who has spent his career in the oil business. Ethan Dupuis (My Name Is Earl), Gina Rodriguez (Jane the Virgin) and John Malkovich as “Donald Vidrine” turn in excellent performances.

The film illustrates that the rig’s workers were for the most part unaware of the lack of testing and poor oversight by management. They were unaware that the BP executives on board were pushing to start drilling without proper testing in order to offset financial losses. You see the catastrophe from the eyes of one of the crewmembers, “Mike Williams”, played by Mark Wahlberg, who was in fact the last man off the rig that fateful night. The chaos that takes place around the bridge (control room), where the workers could not comprehend the “big picture”, is done with great dramatic effect. Deepwater Horizon is worth seeing as a reminder of what happens when people’s lives are controlled by a handful of powerful leaders who see them merely as pieces in a game of monopoly.

If you would like to source more detailed background on the disaster and how this movie was made, read this fascinating transcript of an NPR interview with director Peter Berg at http://www.npr.org/2016/09/26/495467460/deepwater-horizon-director-on-the-bp-oil-spill-and-the-addictive-dance-for-fuel 

Kathryn Whitney Boole has spent most of her life in the entertainment industry, which is the backdrop for remarkable adventures with extraordinary people. She is a Talent Manager with Studio Talent Group in Santa Monica. kboole@gmail.com. For previously published reviews see https://kwboole.wordpress.co