It’s official: Peter Berg is a more toned down version of Michael Bay.
“Deepwater Horizon” is based on the true story of the 2010 explosion and oil spill by the titular drilling rig in the Gulf of Mexico. Mark Wahlberg stars alongside Kurt Russell, John Malkovich, Gina Rodriguez, Dylan O’Brien and Kate Hudson as Peter Berg directs.
I don’t think many people thought we needed a film based off of this tragedy; I mean, 210 million gallons of oil being spilled into Gulf of Mexico and 11 people losing their lives doesn’t exactly scream “Friday night fun.” And after seeing the movie I can tell you Wahlberg and Berg (teaming up again after “Lone Survivor” and before this year’s “Patriots Day”) certainly handle the subject with respect towards those involved and resentment towards BP Oil; however that doesn’t mean their finished product is as good as their intentions.
Mark Wahlberg is a movie star for sure, but I do believe he is underappreciated as an actor. I think he plays “everyday man” better than anyone, and if a muscular, handsome millionaire can make himself feel relatable to an average 20-something like me then clearly he is doing something right. Here, Wahlberg plays Mike Williams, but truly isn’t given too much to do. Williams is pretty much “Mark Wahlberg playing a drilling engineer” and by the time the disaster starts we know very little about him besides he has a wife and daughter and quips like Mark Wahlberg. By the climax he is able to show a range of emotion, but it’s a long journey there.
No characters, in fact, are given much development. Gina Rodriguez is shown having her car’s engine give out on her in the opening scene and that is the only character trait referred to her throughout the duration of the film. There are even characters (I won’t say who to avoid spoilers) who we don’t find out have wives and kids until they’re reunited with them at the climax! Would that have made for some (albeit forced) emotional heft? Yup, but Berg is more concerned with having things go boom.
Which brings me to my main point and circles back to my opening line: Peter Berg has way too much in common with Michael Bay. Berg is a more competent filmmaker, don’t get me wrong, but there are so many gratuitous shots of the American flag in this film it would make Colin Kaepernick’s knee get sore. The first hour of this film is pretty much nothing but explaining how oil drilling works, even though the film (brilliantly and without pandering) conveys in the first five minutes; I guess Berg really wants you to understand how we get stuff from the ground to tubes. The first hour is also filled with shoving it in our faces how negligent and ignorant British Petroleum was. Honestly the first half of this film is really monotonous and (dare I say) boring; I guess this should’ve been called “Deepwater HoriZZZon,” right?!
The second half is better, but it’s overly chaotic and things are constantly spilling and exploding and it is hard to figure out who is who and what is truly going on. Symbolic and a fair representation of the real-life event? Sure. But this is a film, not a documentary, you can take some liberties to streamline your narrative and clear up your sequences.
This one pains me, it really does; I really wanted “Deepwater Horizon” to be good. And I am sick and tired of 2016 films almost all exclusively being, “mehh like it’s fine, I guess?” because we deserve better than “meh, alright,” especially when ticket prices continue to rise. But that’s an argument and complaint for another day. As far as *this* “meh” film goes, it features solid enough performances from actors playing one-dimensional characters and you feel some attachment to the story. But that is purely because this is a real-life tragedy in which 11 people died and corrupt BP officials got off way too easy, not because Berg or Wahlberg earn anything with their big budget booms.
Critics Rating: 4/10