Hollywood once again turns its attention to a real-life disaster/ event; and gives it the full treatment. Fortunately, Deepwater Horizon is a good one of those; very much from the Apollo 13 school of filmmaking than that of Armageddon. If you're dreading a meat-headed Mark Wahlberg vehicle with square-jawed heroics with an obligatory side order of manipulative wife n' kids sentimentality, you'll come away pleasantly surprised and more than a little relieved. The script is good; the family stuff feels authentic; and people seem to behave like real people rather than walking cliches (a healthy sprinkling of banter is mixed with the technical talk, as it is in real life). That technical stuff is well researched and Peter Berg does his best to immerse the viewer in the subject matter, and makes the assumption that the audience will be interested- which I was.
The disaster itself is expertly staged with plenty of establishing dialogue, slow build up, and character motivation; and rather like the rig itself, the film dials up the pressure to bursting point. The pay off is both spectacular and harrowing, even though the initial disaster is more gripping than what follows. Effects are impressive and whatever CGI was used (interlectually I know there must be some) isn't intrusive or obvious; resulting in a highly gritty and real-looking disaster spectacle.
Mark Wahlberg, Kurt Russell and John Malkovich are very good; I especially enjoyed the latter in the least sympathetic (and potentially controversial) character portrayal.
As with all 'based-on-true-events', there's always an element of controversy regarding the accuracy of events especially where character actions are concerned; and some have raised objections to the film placing the blame squarely -and solely- on BP and it's representative Vidrine (Malkovich); when findings of the real life investigations point to joint culpability with other companies and personnel. For dramatic purposes however there's often an element of fiction, and in this case apportioning partial blame to Transocean and Halliburton wouldn't give the simplicity of a single corporate entity. BP, for better or worse, are the villains of the film. But as always, the onus is on us to get the facts for ourselves if we want them. Peter Berg has done a fine job of conveying the disaster in a realistic way and making the story exciting for the audience, which rightly or wrongly is the first duty of a filmmaker.