On April 20, 2010, the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig, located 41 miles off the coast of Louisiana, exploded when methane gas, under high pressure, blew out of the drill pipe and caught fire. Eleven members of the crew perished in the ensuing inferno that engulfed the platform.
The accident caused the worst oil spill in U.S. history, with over 200 million gallons of crude oil leaking into the Gulf of Mexico by the time the well was capped 86 days later. Next, authorities turned their attention to the question of who was to blame for the disaster.
There was no shortage of potential villains to sort through because the drilling unit had been built in South Korea — was owned by Transocean Limited, a Swiss company, operated under the flag of the Marshall Islands — was leased to British Petroleum (BP) but maintained by Halliburton, an American field service corporation — and serviced by Schlumberger, a Dutch company. Ultimately, the bulk of the blame would be attributed to BP, and the company was found guilty of gross negligence and ordered to pay billions of dollars in damages to thousands of aggrieved parties.
Directed by Peter Berg (Battleship), Deepwater Horizon revisits the infamous incident primarily from the perspective of the rig’s chief electronics technician, Mike Williams. The picture reunites Berg with Mark Wahlberg with whom he previously collaborated on Lone Survivor.
Wahlberg plays Williams, a working-class man of unquestioned integrity. As the film unfolds, we find him bidding adieu to his family as he was leaving for a 21-day tour on the oil platform. If Mike had heeded warning signs like his wife’s (Kate Hudson) premonitions and his daughter Sydney’s (Stella Allen) science project with a Coke can geyser, he might have decided to call in sick.
The same could be said of his colleague Andrea Fleytas (Gina Rodriguez), a mechanic who couldn’t get her car started that same morning. Even the helicopter ferrying them to work experienced an ominous bird strike en route to the platform. And upon landing, they were greeted by a friend who had a macabre skull-and-crossbones insignia on his hard hat.
Don Vidrine (John Malkovich) and Bob Kaluza (Brad Leland) are the BP bureaucrats who bullied their employees to increase production at all costs from the minute they arrived on the platform. These villains were willing to put profits before any safety concerns, so it’s not surprising when the platform’s unstable drill pipe failed disastrously.
During the pyrotechnic calamity that ensued, Mike’s actions were heroic and later his testimony in court identified the culprits who were responsible. The movie is a harrowing tale of survival that ends with justice being served.
Excellent (****). Rated PG-13 for intense action sequences, disturbing images. and brief profanity. Running time: 107 minutes. Distributor: Lionsgate Films.