When I think back to all the disaster films I’ve loved over the years, two main things come to mind. The first is that most of them are fictional story lines, and the other being that most of them are guilty pleasures. Nobody is going to say that Volcano, Twister or Dante’s Peak are highly credible films, and in fact the only one I do like that I know had even a slightly decent critical response was Backdraft. So hearing that Deepwater Horizon, the true story of a drilling rig that exploded back in 2010 was both critically and comercially shining, I was quite excited. Coming from seeing it last night it’s interesting that I completely agree with what’s being said about the film, and yet, I don’t think it will ever be a favourite.
The reason for that being the story of Deepwater Horizon is one of truth and tragedy combined, and because of that the enjoyment factor I have with the aforementioned disaster films is not attainable here. I can rewatch Twister over and over and sit back in guilt free enjoyment of the havoc unfolding, yet with Deepwater Horizon there are few emotions I would opt to experience over and over. Not only is the truth of the event harrowing, but the understanding behind the corporate greed that fueled the fire is blood boiling in itself.
That’s because without touching on too many spoilers for those unfamiliar with the story, Deepwater Horizon is a film that is built around the fact that it could have been so easily avoided. In fact, it’s the build up to the explosion where the film achieves most of its merit. The performances aren’t exactly shining but you sympathise with the crew because you know what they’re about to go through, and with some clever cinematography of the rig you get a solitary, almost claustrophobic feel that adds to the isolation of the incident, knowing that once hell breaks loose there is nowhere to go.
Unfortunately, again despite some fantastic visuals of the explosion, once that happens everything runs fairly formulaic through the second act. You do get a shocking sense of the desperation of some of the crew in such an unimaginable scenario very well, and even Whalberg himself takes a hand at some early onset PTSD accurately and poignantly, but otherwise everything else is fairly standard. You even have the altruistic hero trope, in which a character sacrifices himself for the others. The only difference here is that this a true story, and that is nothing other than heroic.
Otherwise, the film is a fantastic telling of this event. It has to be said that there is one too many preachy America moments that reminded me of American Sniper too often, with repeated shots of the stars and stripes across various backgrounds, and even a bit of Christian solidarity thrown in. Otherwise this is a biopic disaster film done well. The sickly aftertaste of the bullet dodged from BP looms over the film as a strong message and a telling reminder of the failings of greed, and with that a great example of why this film will struggle to be a favourite of mine. It’s one I will recommend to everyone, but not one I will watch again in a hurry.