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USA 2016
Directed by
Peter Berg
107 minutes
Rated M

Reviewed by
Andrew Lee
3.5 stars

Deepwater Horizon

Synopsis: A dramatisation of the events of the Deepwater Horizon oil drilling disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, which resulted in 11 men losing their lives and the largest environmental disaster in US history.

I’ll admit I had knives out for this film after I saw the trailer. I was concerned this was a Hollywood film serving as PR spin, taking a massive environmental disaster and refocusing attention on the heroics of the men and women on the drilling platform as they struggled to escape. The corporate shenanigans that led to the disaster are documented but it felt like this was going to be glossed over a bit. Fortunately, this is a film that has its cake and eats it too. We get walked through each of the steps leading up to the disaster, and the concerns raised at each step that get trampled over. But we also see how it wasn’t just a bad series of calls, but also some extremely bad luck that led to the problems not getting detected until it was too late. It humanises bad decision-making without exculpating anyone involved.

What’s surprising is that all this process and testing is presented in a thoroughly entertaining way. You might not understand everything they’re talking about, but they do enough to make it easy on you and let you follow what’s a complicated process by means of some smart visuals and quick explanations. There’s a slightly cheesy bit of foreshadowing at the beginning of the film where they explain how an oil well is tapped and the pressure regulated, and even a cute bit reminding everyone that it’s basically just dinosaurs heavily squished up.

All this is really just setup for the explosions, people running to life-rafts and others struggling to contain the oil leak and cap the well. And it’s all effectively handled, with excitement, noble sacrifices, panicked indecision and all the other standard tropes of the disaster movie.

Deepwater Horizon isn’t a film that’s going to rock your world, but it’s extremely solid film-making with good acting and a story that follows corporate cost-cutting to its sadly logical conclusion.

And kudos to Greenpeace for being smart enough to run their campaign ad against BP drilling in the Great Australian Bight before the film




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