Mark Wahlberg leads an all-star cast in this unforgettably powerful film inspired by a thrilling story of real-life heroes. For the one hundred and twenty-six people aboard the Deepwater Horizon offshore oil rig, April 20, 2010, began like any normal day. Before day’s end, the world would bear witness to one of the greatest man-made disasters in U.S. history. Deepwater Horizon reveals the brave acts of the men and women who rose to the challenge—and risked everything to lead others to safety.
'Deepwater Horizon' highlights the dangers of capitalism run amok, when profits are greater than people. It's a stark portrait of corporate greed, a cautionary tale that should never have played out.
There's a moment where Kurt Russell's character, Jimmy Harrell, turns to the movie's main focus Mike Williams (Mark Wahlberg) and apropos of nothing says, "Did you brush your teeth today?" Williams replies, "Yes sir." Harrell says, "Did you floss?" "Well, no sir." Williams says back. Harrell ends the discussion with, "It'll save you a lot of money and suffering." And so it is with the story of BP's greed.
Seconds later Harrell and Williams are talking with BP executives about how dangerous it is not to do all requisite tests before handing the newly drilled well off to BP's pumpers. Harrell is incensed that BP would cut corners. BP is rushed, because they're already over budget and behind schedule. Harrell wants a specific test done before they can plug the well and move on. It's a test that would have cost BP less than $200,000. Remember that flossing comment? Two-hundred grand, to a multi-billion-dollar company is floss, but because they ignored it, a bigger bill is about to come due.
Peter Berg directs this true story about the 2010 BP oil spill and the destruction of the oil drilling rig, Deepwater Horizon. So often, in Berg's past, his films have felt more like Michael Bay rip-offs rather than original works. Here, however, he finds his own voice.
The destruction of the rig, which consists of over half the movie, is some of the best action filmmaking you'll see this year. While in previous films Berg has resorted to Chaos Cinema techniques (see: 'Battleship'), here he makes sense of the madness. And it's quite a spectacle to behold as this massive floating mini-city explodes in multiple fireballs, over and over again. Steel structures crumble. Fire bellows into the sky. Bulkheads explode. Shrapnel flies in every direction. And in the midst of it all are our characters, who we never lose in the chaos. Berg does a masterful job directing the action, but keeping it from overshadowing his characters.
Buried in the fiery mayhem are a few compelling storylines.
John Malkovich plays a slimy BP executive named Vidrine who is tired of waiting for his deep-water oil well to be complete. His smarmy grin only exacerbates his uncaring demeanor. He's a great villain, if a little over the top.
Mike Williams is your Regular Joe American hero. A man with a family who suddenly turns into a selfless rescuer. The complete antithesis to Vidrine's callousness.
Then there's this whole underlying theme of corporations not valuing human life. Even when the fire is bellowing, and destruction seems imminent, the crew on the bridge cannot attempt to seal the well without proper approval for fear of getting in trouble by higher-ups. No matter that sealing the well might stop the fire, or might save lives. No, procedures must be followed in order to protect the company's investment as long as possible. Even if people are dying at its expense.
Berg crafts a taut thriller that also doubles as a steady takedown of BP's in-the-moment handling of the Deepwater Horizon fiasco (not to mention their continuous bungling after the events of this movie). Like 'Sully,' it's a real-life event that provides more action and drama than many fictional stories ever could.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
This is a two-disc set that comes with a 50GB Blu-ray and a DVD copy. There's a code included for a Digital Copy. A slipcover is provided also.
Berg's visuals are showcased in a nearly flawless 1080p presentation. There's just one noticeable and ugly blemish marring an otherwise great looking Blu-ray.
Let's begin with the bad news, because it's obvious right at the outset. There are numerous underwater shots of the drill tube that goes down to the ocean floor. These shots are understandbly hazy, which isn't a problem at all. The problem is the significant banding that happens as the camera pans lower and lower. The green-black gradients of the ocean aren't presented smoothly. Instead large bands of color can be seen during these moments. It's a shame.
Now that we've got that out of the way, the rest of 'Deepwater Horizon's presentation is top-notch. Detail is superb. All the dirt and grime that one would expect to adhere to faces, skin, and clothes on an oil rig is impeccably visible. When the explosions start the giant red-orange fireballs are brillant and astounding. Whites have wonderful contrast without burning too bright. Black areas, of which there are many when the sun sets, are dark and resolute (with exception to the blackness under the water where the dreaded banding resides). Above the surface of the water there aren't any glaring anomalies. If it weren't for the underwater portions this would be a 5-star all the way.
'Deepwater Horizon' has been outfitted with a rocking Dolby Atmos track that will really get adopters of the relatively new format excited. This mix makes use of all that Atmos has to offer. The second half of the film is certainly demo-worthy.
The action here is primed for the sort of experience that Dolby Atmos offers. As the crew of the Deepwater Horizon run around an exploding floating oil rig the sound is engulfing. Explosions happen behind and above you. Creaking, groaning, and crashing metal structures give the height speakers a lot to play with. Helicopters hovering overhead provide some seamless surround to height speaker transfers that are crisp and fluid.
Up front the center channel never loses any dialogue. Even during the explosions voices are heard clearly. The bass on this movie is tremendous. Explosion after explosion make this quite a bombastic mix. The low-end frequencies are rich and effective. For the Atmos crowd this one is going to be a must-own title.
Beyond the Horizon (HD, 51 min.) – An overlong promotional type of feature that provides interviews from the main cast along with some discussion of what it was like filming. For something almost an hour long you'd think it'd have a little more substance to it.
Captain of the Rig: Peter Berg (HD, 18 min.) – A back-patting look at Peter Berg, director.
The Fury of the Rig (HD, 27 min.) – A production featurette that talks about filming and the sets used.
Deepwater Surveillance (HD, 18 min.) – Tweleve different clips that highlight unedited footage that was gathered with the multi-camera setup. An interesting look at what it takes to make a movie like this and capture all the action going on.
Participant Media Work Like an American (HD, 18 min.) – A collection of short tributes devoted to the blue-collar workers who are the subjects of the film.
While I'm not always a fan of director Peter Berg's asthetics or storytelling, 'Deepwater Horizon' offers an entertaining 100 minutes of action based on a true story. It's exciting and the Atmos track really makes it shine. The video is strong (but does have its one issue). Overall, this is highly recommended for the film, and for its demo-worthy audio. Recommended.