Everyone remembers the images of the BP oil spill that dominated the TV news cycle back in 2010 – the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig engulfed in flames, the rivers of black crude oil spreading across the Gulf of Mexico – but not many people know the details of what actually happened. It remains the worst oil disaster in U.S. history, and director Peter Berg recreates it in stunningly authentic detail for his latest film. But while “Deepwater Horizon” is a pretty effective disaster movie with some decent thrills and enough explosions to make even Michael Bay jealous, it doesn’t seem to have a purpose. It works just fine as a dramatic reenactment of corporate greed gone horribly wrong, but unlike the real-life incident, it will quickly be forgotten.
There were a lot of heroes aboard the Deepwater Horizon on that fateful day, but Berg centers on a quartet of Transocean contractors – including chief electronics technician Mike Williams (Mark Wahlberg), crew chief Jimmy Harrell (Kurt Russell), bridge officer Andrea Fleytas (Gina Rodriguez) and floorhand Caleb Holloway (Dylan O’Brien) – to tell the harrowing tale. When Mike, Jimmy and Andrea arrive on the offshore drilling rig for a three-week shift, they discover that an important safety procedure has been ignored due to the project falling behind schedule. Adamant about the safety of his crew, Jimmy insists that they run some additional tests before anyone begins drilling, much to the annoyance of BP executive Donald Vidrine (John Malkovich). After the tests prove inconclusive, Vidrine pressures the workers into starting the job anyway, leading to the tragic accident that claimed the lives of 11 men and caused irreparable damage to the surrounding waters.