ReelBob: ‘Deepwater Horizon’

By Bob Bloom

Like most movies based on or inspired by true events, “Deepwater Horizon” threads the needle between fact and fiction with the skill of a veteran seamstress.

The general facts are known: On April 20, 2010, an explosion and fire on the oil rig Deepwater Horizon in the Gulf of Mexico claimed the lives of 11 men, while more than 100 others were saved.

This man-made disaster was preventable. But because the company, BP, was behind schedule, short cuts were taken and safety procedures were bypassed.

“Deepwater Horizon” is more than a disaster movie: It’s a story of white-collar corporate arrogance and greed vs. blue-collar common sense and work ethic.

As written by Matthew Michael Carnahan and Matthew Sand (“World War Z”) — and directed by Peter Berg (“Lone Survivor”) — the movie is an indictment of the consequences of cost cutting and putting profits over safeguards.

A few things are wrong with “Deepwater Horizon”: too much technical jargon mixed with many actors’ thick Cajun accents makes much of the early dialogue undecipherable.

Subtitles would definitely be beneficial.

The first 40 or so minutes of this 107-minute film is basically exposition and setup, as we wait for the big bang and the balls of fire and flames that engulf the rig.

And when the blast hits, it is impressive. You feel the rig sway and begin to buckle.

What is even more remarkable are the reactions of the men and women on board. Most keep cool heads and begin — against overwhelming odds — to try stemming the disaster — even to the point of putting their lives at risk.

Others help move injured co-workers out of harm’s way.

This is the same matter-of-fact heroism you see in police officers and firefighters who run into the danger the rest of us flee from as fast as we can.

“Deepwater Horizon” is not subtle by any means. Berg squarely puts the blame on the BP corporate bureaucracy and pins heroism medals on the working stiffs who suffered the consequences.

The cast, headed by Mark Wahlberg and Kurt Russell, is effective, with enough matter-of-fact testosterone on board the rig to keep it floating until disaster strikes.

John Malkovich plays the BP executive who learns too late the folly of not listening to the men who best know rig procedures.

The pyrotechnics are most realistic, and look more like controlled burns than CGI creations.

“Deepwater Horizon” is an effective feature that will definitely direct your anger toward those responsible for the tragedy, while, at the same time, saluting those courageous men and women who paid the high price of their stupidity.

Bob Bloom is a member of the Indiana Film Journalists Association. His reviews appear at ReelBob ( and Rottentomatoes ( He also reviews Blu-rays and DVDs. He can be reached by email at or on Twitter @ReelBobBloom.

3 stars out of 4
(PG-13), intense disaster sequences, disturbing images, language


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