Review: ‘Deepwater Horizon’ Doesn’t Stick The Landing

Title: Deepwater Horizon
Director: Peter Berg
Summary: 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.

The unfortunate reality of being a film critic is that there are times when not much comes out. These lulls between releases are shrinking every year but there are still weeks at a time where the best one can say about the movies being released is ‘forgettable’. This is also a time where studios can drop a movie that they might not have a lot of confidence in to avoid being completely drowned out by summer blockbusters or award movies.

Deepwater Horizon isn’t going to change the world but as a tribute to the lives lost on that day on the gulf it succeeds even if it isn’t very memorable.

Mark Wahlberg stars as 'Mike Williams' in DEEPWATER HORIZON. Photo Credit: David Lee
Photo Credit: David Lee

The BP oil disaster is an event that the world is going to be talking about for years to come. While the gulf has more or less healed the effects are ones that are going to be felt through the generations. Those reparations are felt the most by the men and women who were there the night the rig caught fire and who lost their lives. When I saw the trailer for Deepwater Horizon I had to wonder if turning this event into a movie was really the right thing to do. It turned out that it is but the movie doesn’t quite know how to end when it comes to it. This movie was made less as a movie talking about the oil spill but more the eleven men who lost their lives that night.

The reason why Deepwater Horizon doesn’t fall completely flat is that focus. While we do see a bird covered in oil at one point the movie doesn’t seem to dwell on that too much. Character do speak about it but the immediate threat is the fire and getting all of the workers to safety. It’s a disaster movie only in this case the disaster is a real event and the people dying were real instead of disaster movie canon fodder. These people are the reason this movie was made and the entire cast does a great job of embodying that from Walberg’s ‘Dad trying to make his way in the world’ to Russell’s ‘boss who will stop at nothing to keep his men safe’ they are all believable in a very real way.

It’s just unfortunate that the movie didn’t know how to end. There are plenty of movies that should have ended earlier either by adding scenes for a sequel that will never come or the need to tap on one more action scene despite the story being clearly over. In the case of Deepwater Horizon once the rig burns down there is an abrupt shift in tone that doesn’t work. The film goes from tense thriller to the ending of a documentary and the juxtaposition didn’t work. The intentions appear to be re-enforcing that human element but that was literally the point of the entire production. It felt unnecessary and tacked on.

Deepwater Horizon appears to be designed to focus on the men and women who survived and died that night and not on the resulting fallout. However, the ending of the production felt the need to reinforce this focus in the least subtle way possible. While the movie accomplished its goal of focusing on those lives lost it should have faded to black five minutes earlier.

Kaitlyn Booth
Kaitlyn Booth
Kaitlyn Booth is a writer, film critic, comic lover, and soccer fan based in Salt Lake City. She has covered such events as the Sundance Film Festival, San Diego Comic Con, and New York Comic Con and been a special guest and panelist at Salt Lake Comic Con and FanX. She has a deep fondness for female superheroes and independent film.