[Screen It]


(2016) (Mark Wahlberg, Kurt Russell) (PG-13)

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Drama/Action: Those on board a mobile offshore drilling rig must contend with an increasingly dangerous situation when disaster strikes.
It's April 2010 and a number of crew members who work on the Deepwater Horizon travel out to the mobile offshore drilling rig to check on the progress of the drilling of an exploratory well in the Gulf of Mexico. Among them is rig boss Jimmy Harrell (KURT RUSSELL) and his trusted associate, electronics technician Mike Williams (MARK WAHLBERG), as well as bridge officer Andrea Fleytas (GINA RODRIGUEZ).

Jimmy and Mike are well-liked by the crew that numbers more than one hundred men and women, but a number of BP officials, including rig supervisor Donald Vidrine (JOHN MALKOVICH), aren't exactly as friendly. And that's because he believes Jimmy and his crew are too far over budget and schedule, while Jimmy and Mike think Donald and others are cutting corners and pushing the crew to take unnecessary risks all in the name of making as much money as quickly as possible.

The results of a negative pressure test prove their point, but Donald points out a number of viable explanations, one of which is given credence using an auxiliary test. But the crew's initial wariness is proven correct when things go awry and a series of escalating catastrophes strike the rig. From that point on, Mike and Jimmy do what they can to mitigate as much of that as possible and get their crew to safety, all while Mike's wife back home, Felicia (KATE HUDSON), worries about him as the situation worsens.

OUR TAKE: 7 out of 10
Many times when big, newsworthy events occur and become the headline for a day, week or even months, people know the generalities of what occurred, but then usually focuses more on the aftermath, especially since today's 24/7 news coverage cycle demands that reporters be on or near the site, commenting ad nauseum about what's happening "right now." Name just about any big pivotal event, accident or tragedy of the past twenty years and you'll see such attention.

Such was the case with the Deepwater Horizon accident in April 2010 when a catastrophe struck that mobile offshore drilling rig while it was drilling an exploratory well at Macondo in the Gulf of Mexico. After the rig exploded and sank, nearly 5 billion barrels (more than 200 million gallons) of fuel spilled into the gulf.

Coverage was 'round the clock on that spill and related containment and cleanup activities, but many people have likely forgotten that eleven workers on the rig were never found (and thus presumed dead), while another ninety-four were rescued before the rig sank.

The film "Deepwater Horizon" hopes to change that as it not only focuses on the nighttime incident, but also some of the workers on board and the fiery nightmare they experienced as all hell seemed to break out on the rig. It's a well-made and harrowing flick that's also surprisingly emotionally affecting. Okay, maybe it's not that surprising considering that director Peter Berg also hit the emotional notes in "Lone Survivor."

That was the 2013 film about Navy SEAL Marcus Luttrell and several comrades coming under attack in Afghanistan during a covert mission. In my review, I stated, "When the ending finally arrived and a series of pics featuring the real life men appeared on screen, I lost it emotionally, not only due to what I had just seen portrayed as fiction, but also from being reminded of the reality and real people behind all of that."

Well, the same occurs here (both at the end, and even before that), and maybe it's because Berg is again telling a tale about real life people who lost their lives along with those who survived. Whatever the explanation might be, the director has a knack for delivering emotional punches to the gut, heart, and mind. And he's teamed up once again with Mark Wahlberg who played Luttrell in that flick and here portrays real-life electronics technician Mike Williams who was on board the Deepwater Horizon when everything went awry and then some.

Like most such "disaster" films, this one shows some home life before the big incident, including that featuring Williams and his wife (Kate Hudson) and daughter who's concocted a homemade demo of how offshore oil drilling works for show and tell at her school. We also see bridge officer Andrea Fleytas (Gina Rodriguez) and her husband (or boyfriend) at home for a few moments before she, Mike and others chopper out with rig boss Jimmy Harrell (Kurt Russell) for a 21-day tour of duty, if you will.

He's not pleased with how the parent company, BP (represented by rig supervisor Donald Vidrine played by John Malkovich with some sort of New Orleans style accent), is ordering him and his crew around, cutting corners, and pushing the crew to keep drilling despite a pressure test that signaled potential problems.

Anyone who's seen any disaster movie knows the latter can't be good and it's not long before Jimmy's worries come to fruition. I didn't note the minute when those figuratively and literally erupt, but from then on it's just a harrowing ride for the rest of the 107-some minute film. It certainly seemed like more than half of the flick focuses on the immediate aftermath and survival story, intercut with Hudson's character back home having little information or news to go on and thus sinking into deeper and deeper worry.

The action is nothing short of intense, and Berg along with cinematographer Enrique Chediak, editors Gabriel Fleming and Colby Parker Jr. and production designer Chris Seagers immerse us in the hell that startles, traps, seemingly hunts and indiscriminately kills as the initial incident snowballs into a cascading firestorm of ever-worsening conditions. The performances might not be Oscar-worthy (and, to be fair, weren't really designed to be so-called Oscar bait), but they're certainly strong good across the board, while the tech credits are excellent.

If you can sit through this and not be on the edge of your seat, heart racing, all sweaty and occasionally teary-eyed, more power to you. I imagine, though, that most viewers will be completely engaged from start to finish, particularly once the mayhem, action, and survival attempt sequences kick in. Far better than I imagined it was going to be in terms of a visceral experience and then some, "Deepwater Horizon" rates as a 7 out of 10.

Reviewed September 1, 2016 / Posted September 30, 2016

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