Empire (UK) - - ON SCREEN - chris he­witt

DIREC­TOR Peter Berg CAST Mark Wahlberg, Kurt Russell, John Malkovich, Kate Hud­son, Dy­lan O’brien, Gina Ro­driguez

PLOT Based on the true story of a heroic band of oil rig work­ers on Deep­wa­ter Hori­zon, the sub­mersible off­shore drilling plat­form in the Gulf of Mex­ico that ex­ploded in 2010, this fol­lows the dra­matic events that fol­lowed as the work­ers des­per­ately fought to stay alive in the af­ter­math of the worst oil spill in US his­tory.

MARK WAHLBERG AND Peter Berg’s last movie to­gether as an ac­tor-direc­tor pair­ing took the un­usual step of spoil­ing it­self with its ti­tle: Lone Sur­vivor. There are no such spoil­ers in the ti­tle of their next movie to­gether, just a mat­ter-of-fact state­ment of in­tent. Deep­wa­ter

Hori­zon is, the ti­tle says, a movie about an oil rig. But not just any oil rig — one that was con­sumed by the worst oil rig dis­as­ter in the his­tory of the United States on 20 April, 2010; one that claimed the lives of 11 men, caused un­told en­vi­ron­men­tal dam­age, and cost bil­lions of dol­lars.

It’s also the place on which we spend vir­tu­ally the en­tire movie, save for a very brief open­ing sec­tion where we’re in­tro­duced to Mike Wil­liams (Wahlberg), the kind of stoic ev­ery­man Wahlberg has down to a fine art, at home with his fam­ily. Over the next hun­dred or so min­utes, Wil­liams will func­tion as the eyes and ears of the au­di­ence, there to trans­late reams of con­fus­ing, dense ter­mi­nol­ogy about kill pumps, neg­a­tive pres­sure tests and blowout pre­ven­ters into lay­man’s terms.

It’s un­sur­pris­ing that it’s Wahlberg upon whom the film fo­cuses. Af­ter all, not only is he one of the pro­duc­ers, but he’s ac­tu­ally an in­sti­ga­tor of the project, along with orig­i­nal direc­tor JC Chan­dor. Fol­low­ing a clas­sic case of cre­ative dif­fer­ences, Chan­dor de­parted at the 11th hour, with Wahlberg draft­ing in the tried-and-trusted Berg (they have an­other two films in the pipe­line) for his first dis­as­ter movie. Sec­ond, if you count Bat­tle­ship, but that was largely un­in­ten­tional.

We’ll never see Chan­dor’s ver­sion of this movie, of course. Although he’s said enough about his in­ten­tions in pre­vi­ous in­ter­views to sug­gest it would have been a foren­sic look at the dis­as­ter, its af­ter­math and the cul­pa­bil­ity of giant com­pa­nies BP and Transocean in the

lead-up. While el­e­ments of that re­main here, Berg is more in­ter­ested in the build-up to the mael­strom. He makes us wait over an hour for the shit, oil, mud and flames to hit the fan. It’s time well spent as we get to know the lay­out of the (metic­u­lously recre­ated) plat­form, while Berg ex­pertly cranks up the ten­sion — ev­ery test of the un­der­wa­ter pipe, which we know is dan­ger­ously over­loaded, could be the one that blows; ev­ery ex­tended close-up of a gas­ket, a dial wa­ver­ing to­wards the red zone, or a pump bulging with lethal pres­sure throbs with omi­nous in­tent.

With events mov­ing in­ex­orably to­wards the mo­ment of doom, this is not a movie that slows down to smell the flow­ers. Wahlberg’s Wil­liams is the only char­ac­ter we get to spend any sig­nif­i­cant time with out­side the rig, so a lot of the char­ac­ter­i­sa­tion of the rest of Deep­wa­ter Hori­zon’s per­son­nel is achieved through cast­ing short­hand. Need some­one to play a BP ex­ec­u­tive so ut­terly oleagi­nous it’s a won­der they don’t try drilling him in­stead? Call John Malkovich. Look­ing for a griz­zled old stager with an epic ’tache who knows oil rigs like the back of his hand — you know, a real Kurt Russell type? Try Kurt Russell. In fact, Russell — en­joy­ing a welcome re­nais­sance at this late stage of his ca­reer — is the stand­out as ‘Mr Jimmy’, a man not only deeply con­temp­tu­ous of his BP su­pe­ri­ors, but who, on some level, sus­pects that the whole thing could go south very quickly. He has no idea, of course, just how south, and just how quickly.

For when the dis­as­ter fi­nally comes, it comes in the blink of an eye, es­ca­lat­ing from an on­slaught of oil to a tu­mul­tuous ex­plo­sion that rips through the sta­tion, tosses men around like match­sticks, and ig­nites ev­ery­thing that can burn and even a few things that can’t.

Strangely, it’s at this point the film loses mo­men­tum and ten­sion as Berg strug­gles to make sense of his tow­er­ing, float­ing in­ferno. When ev­ery­thing’s alight, ev­ery­thing looks the same, so all that work set­ting up the ge­og­ra­phy of the place goes to waste. And while there’s a fair amount of sus­pense in se­quences where Wahlberg pokes around dark cor­ri­dors look­ing for in­jured col­leagues, it doesn’t quite grip as it should. Like a true blowout, it’s also over quicker than you might ex­pect. But for the first hour the attention to de­tail, pac­ing, and sense of verisimil­i­tude is Paul Green­grass-level stuff, and a great tes­ta­ment to ex­tra­or­di­nary courage and the hero­ism of or­di­nary men.

ver­dict An ef­fi­cient and no-non­sense de­pic­tion of the worst dis­as­ter in US oil drilling his­tory, buoyed by ex­cel­lent per­for­mances.

Skype and sweat­pants for Kate Hud­son’s Feli­cia Wil­liams pre-dis­as­ter. Mark Wahlberg (mid­dle) as his lat­est ev­ery­man hero, Mike Wil­liams. Kurt Russell (left) as Mr Jimmy: “the stand­out”.

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