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 The World of Film in Australia - on the Internet Updated Tuesday September 15, 2020 


SYNOPSIS: A story set on the offshore drilling rig Deepwater Horizon, which exploded during April 2010 and created the worst oil spill in U.S. history.

Review by Louise Keller:
Despite the fact that much of the dialogue is indecipherable and it is hard to know exactly what is happening for much of the time, the sheer power and scale of one of the world's largest man made disasters takes your breath away. Deepwater Horizon is a visual film in the true sense of the word. The visuals are powerful indeed, from the raining oil and mud to the scarlet ocean that reflects the massive fire engulfing the oilrig in the Gulf of Mexico. Director Peter Berg handles the elements skillfully, delivering high-level visual impact coupled with emotional clout.

Based on an article from the New York Times, the screenplay begins by establishing the key characters. The story is told from the perspective of Mike Williams (Mark Wahlberg, excellent), the Chief Electronics Technician, whose role to oversee the rig's computer and electrical systems on April 20, 2010 lands him in an unforeseen, precarious life and death situation. We meet Mike and his wife (Kate Hudson) at home; they share a happy-go-lucky dynamic that is all at once playful, loving and caring. Together with their young daughter, they epitomise a happy family.

Berger wastes no time in focusing on the main game: the oilrig, where Mike and the team leader and Safety Operations Manger Jimmy Harrell (Kurt Russell) are headed. Safety and money are not always comfortable bedfellows and corporate giant BP's executive Donald Vidrine (John Malkovich, perfectly cast) whose priority is the bottom line, makes it clear that a profitable end is crucial for 'a big company comprising millions of moving parts'. Time is money and he wants shortcuts. The dialogue might be hard to make out but there is no mistaking the imminent danger when the negative pressure test forces the dial heavily into the red zone. It is not surprising that the corporation has criticized the movie, describing it as ‘inaccurate’.

You will need to wait about 45 minutes for the first explosion to take place, when mud and oil jettison from the rig uncontrollably. There is chaos as a dark fireworks display erupts, glass breaks, bodies fly every which way and the rig explodes into a fiery hell. At the time of the explosion, Mike is talking to his wife on Skype; Jimmy is in the shower, washing the day's challenges out of his hair. Magenta is the colour of the alarms that indicate the worst-case scenario. That moment has come. Just when you think things can't get worse, you realize that they can. The chaos is enhanced by an effective soundscape that underlines the action throughout. The rescue mission begins when the coast guard is alerted, but can they get there in time? And what of those left on the rig after the only lifeboat has been launched. A key emotional moment involves Mike and his colleague Andrea Fleytas (Gina Rodriguez), who are the only ones left on the rig with a tough decision to make.

It is remarkable that of the 126 crew members onboard, only 11 died - mostly due to the heroism on the part of some of the crew, including Mark and Jimmy. Seeing photos of the real life characters at the end of the film enhances our experience. It's a heart pounding experience: I was engaged, terrified and moved.

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(US, 2016)

CAST: Mark Wahlberg, Kate Hudson, Kurt Russell, Gina Rodriguez, Ethan Suplee, John Malkovic, Dylan O'Brien

PRODUCER: Lorenzo di Bonaventura, Mark Vahradian, David Womark

DIRECTOR: Peter Berg

SCRIPT: Matthew Michael Carnahan, Matthew Sand


EDITOR: Colby Parker Jr

MUSIC: Steve Jablonsky


RUNNING TIME: 107 minutes



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