Deepwater Horizon

Director: Peter Berg
Starring: Mark Wahlberg, Kurt Russell, John Malkovich, Kate Hudson

Peter Berg and Mark Wahlberg team up for a second time with Deepwater Horizon, based on the true events of the worst oil spill in U.S. history. Lone Survivor, Berg and Wahlberg’s first pairing, was one of my favourite movies of 2013. The action scenes made me feel like I was there with the characters, and once the action started the intensity did not drop. So when I heard Berg was behind Deepwater Horizon I was intrigued to see how this could transition into a disaster movie.

But it wasn’t the intense action that had me most impressed after leaving the theatre. It was in fact the opening act documenting the build up to the events that allowed me to really care for these characters. As with a majority of disaster movies, we see our main protagonist (Mike Williams, played very well by Wahlberg) at home with his wife and child before being shipped out to start his 20 day shift on the rig. These early scenes with his family felt natural and not too over the top with speeches, slow motion kisses or any other kind of cheesy goodbyes. When Williams says goodbye to his wife Felicia (Kate Hudson) it’s a quick kiss, “see you in three weeks”, and that is it. This is something that happens on a regular basis for these characters and this shines through here.

Aboard the rig is when the whole movie kicks into gear, and once again it isn’t the action that pulled me in. Berg and the screenwriters do a brilliant job of bringing in the politics of decision making between the leader of the crew performed flawlessly by Kurt Russell, and the blue collared key figures of British Petroleum, headed by the magnificent John Malkovich. There is no holding back in making BP the true enemy of this story, which should be applauded as the movie could have focused more on the disaster itself than the politics behind it. During some of these stand off scenes we see two experienced actors truly stealing the show with some really intense confrontations. I was so hooked into the characters and story at this stage that the portrayal of the disaster itself felt like the cherry on an already well baked cake.

The character development during this section is well scripted, everyone seems very natural with not too many cheesy lines that regularly turn me off with disaster movies. Characters seem to have little traits and small pieces of personality are put on show that add to their development, and so when disaster strikes I am naturally worried about them. It also helps that I was genuinely unaware of the overall full scale of the oil spill issue coming into this movie.

The pacing of this movie is like a steady curve rising upwards, the closer we get to the disaster the intensity begins to rise and once it all starts, that intensity does not drop for a single moment. Berg, as he did so brilliantly in Lone Survivor, really puts us into the scenario ourselves by not letting up until the closing stages. The cinematography helps tremendously with this with the shakes-cam style, not enough to distract from what is going on. And of course the special effects are very well put together, with the sounds ripping through the cinema. What also helps with this is that every characters decision making throughout seems so natural, there wasn’t a single hollywood moment with some speech or a love interest having that final kiss. It is portrayed as it simply was, a group of people fighting for their lives. And I really felt this.

As we arrive to the final segment before the credits role, a quality amount of screen time is given to the ramifications of the oil spill, the facts of what has happened since, and the losses are paid tribute for longer than usual. This added impact to what was already an emotional film, and certainly will have a lasting impression.

If I had to point out a minor thing here, I would say that some scenes where we have dialogue felt very close and claustrophobic, and could’ve been taken back just a bit to give us some breathing space. Especially in scenes with his family at the beginning where we did not necessarily need these intense close ups. But this is a very small thing that didn’t effect my viewing experiences of this superb film.

Looking forward I really hope to see more disaster movies taking on Berg’s style of not being over-patriotic and constructing scripts that are character driven and focus on the facts. Berg and Wahlberg are pairing up once again in Patriots Day, and despite the title I hope this third movie underplays the patriotic aspect as per Lone Survivor and Deepwater Horizon. Because if so then we have three outstanding action movies that others should be inspired by.



12 thoughts on “Deepwater Horizon

  1. Wow, almost a full score! I gotta admit I wasn’t really inclined on seeing this, looks like just another Marky Mark action flick, but the positive reviews got me curious.

    P.S. I’m also a graphic designer, as well as an aspiring screenwriter… lately my passion has been in writing more than design 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I was shocked myself! I was so surprised by this movie, as I wrote the build up with the political aspects between BP and the workers had me hooked, and if their were a movie dedicated to just this it would work! As with Wahlberg, not the hugest fan myself but he seems to work with the director (also Lone Survivor) and I had no issues with him here. As with patriotic moments, on reflection I can think of perhaps 2 moments but they are very subtle in the grand scheme of things.

      That’s so cool! Would love some tips on the transition between design and writing some time. Feel free to pop me an email on would love to get some of your help 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. That’s cool to hear. I haven’t seen ‘Lone Survivor’, not really a Wahlberg fan to be honest. That said I might give this one a rent.

        Oh I don’t know if I have any tips to give you, ahah. I just started doing more screenwriting on top of blogging in my spare time. I’m still so new at it, so definitely no expert. I’ve been working as a web designer for over a decade so my passion for it is wearing out.

        I do love writing reviews though, even if it takes a lot out of me as I tend to get so detailed on it, ahah.


      2. For an action movie Lone Survivor is very well done indeed. I am not the biggest Wahlberg fan also, Pain and Gain was just… Painful! haha but if you do get to see Lone Survivor then let me know what you think!

        It’s good to see a designer transitioning into writing, makes me feel more at ease! I am really enjoying reviewing, I definitely don’t have the writing skills to screenwrite though!

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Ahah good to know about Pain or Gain, will avoid it. I did like Three Kings which is by Peter Berg also I believe.

        I really enjoyed writing now, sometimes I’d write 2-3 reviews in a row, which was what I did last week. But I found screenwriting to be even more gratifying, creating the characters, the world they live in, their struggles, etc., it’s so addictive.

        Liked by 1 person

      4. I haven’t seen Three Kings in so long, and he also did a terrible movie called Battleship so don’t go there…
        That’s really great! With work and other commitments at the moment I can’t write that often, but I am enjoying it all the same with my busy lifestyle! I hope I can be as good one day to write scripts, I would love to read one someday!

        Liked by 1 person

      5. Not yet, I aim to see at least one of the two this weekend (probably Magnificent 7) and get a review up. I have read your review, and am in the same boat of “I have shamefully not seen the original” haha!

        Liked by 1 person

    1. I came away from the movie feeling hatred towards them for sure (not that I didn’t loath them for this particular incident anyway), so I felt it was enough for me personally. But yes, they could definitely have nailed down on them more for sure


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