Review by Gordon Justesen
Wahlberg, Kurt Russell, John Malkovich, Gina Rodriguez, Dylan O’Brien, Kate
Director: Peter Berg
Audio: Dolby Atmos
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 2.40:1
Features: See Review
Length: 107 Minutes
Release Date: January 10, 2017
“I don’t want to die!”
“You’re not going to die, trust me!”
An effective recreation of the worst environmental disaster on record, Deepwater Horizon is both a potent fact based story and a huge technical marvel, more so in the latter. Director Peter Berg is a super skilled big scale filmmaker who has garnered a knack for telling true life stories and honoring real life heroes (demonstrated to great effect in his newest film, Patriots Day). And he also directed Battleship, which I’m not ashamed to admit I enjoyed.
He and star Mark Wahlberg have now made three harrowing films about different sets of people overcoming horrific, tragic events and living to fight another day. This focuses on a disastrous explosion aboard the titular oil rig, which occurred in April of 2010. It resulted in 11 deaths and gallons upon gallons of oil spilled into the Gulf of Mexico.
Through his expert filmmaking skill, Berg recreates the events in fly-on-the-wall fashion, following a set of characters as they set to board Deepwater Horizon to work away for several weeks away from their loved one. The main focus is Mike Williams (Wahlberg), the Chief Electronics Technician of the crew. Other key characters include crew supervisor Jimmy Harrell (Kurt Russell), navigation officer Andrea Fleytas (Gina Rodriguez) and oil worker Caleb Holloway (Dylan O’Brien).
Also on board is BP rep Donald Vidrine (John Malkovich), who is there to oversee everything and to remind everyone else on board that profits are to be made. But even as Mike reports that there’s a great bit of faulty equipment on the rig, Vidrine insists that there’s no sign of danger as they continue to drill the ocean for oil. Then before you know it, an explosion occurs.
As mentioned earlier, Deepwater Horizon is a huge technical feat. Watching it, you really feel like you’re there amongst the horrendous destruction, all of which is captured in jaw dropping form by director Berg and cinematographer Enrique Chediak. And though it doesn’t establish the strongest level of character development (in its defense, the movie only takes place during the course of one day), you do end up caring about the characters and hope that many do survive.
Tense, extremely well paced and barely taking a moment to breathe, Deepwater Horizon once again showcases Peter Berg’s immense skill at telling fact based stories through top flight filmmaking. It doesn’t exploit the story one bit, but rather honors the men and women who aimed to save as many lives as possible in the face of extreme danger, and does them justice even more by including footage of the real survivors in the concluding moments. And from a technical standpoint, it’s one of the best movies in recent memory.
This Blu-ray release from Lionsgate features a marvelously crisp presentation. A good portion of the movie consists of dark levels, as much of the destruction takes place at night, but even with that the 1080p captures all the intense action in riveting form, thanks mostly to the rendering of some major impressive effects work used in these scenes. Whenever fire bursts on the screen, you feel it right away.
A couple weeks into 2017 and we already have a top candidate for the best audio release of the year. The Dolby Atmos mix, which is basically Dolby TrueHD 7.1 if you aren’t set up to play an Atmos mix, is magnificent and appropriately assaulting on your hearing senses as it should be. And even before the disaster strikes, the sound mix does a remarkable job of bringing to life the oil rig environment through great use of background sounds at every area aboard it. But when the disaster kicks in, be prepared for a Blu-ray sounding experience you won’t forget, as every single explosion and crumble is captured through the sound channel in riveting form!
Some very good extras on this Lionsgate release, including a near hour long documentary titled “Beyond the Horizon”, which consists of individual focus of a cast or crew member and showcasing what they brought to the production. There’s also a featurette titled “Captain of the Rig”, which focuses entirely on director Peter Berg and the vision he brought to the production. Rounding out the extras are three additional featurettes; “The Fury of the Rig”, which looks at the set design and stunt work, “Deepwater Surveillance”, which takes a more up close look at the setting via raw footage, and “Work Like an American”, which features stories about real workers like the ones depicted in the film.
Deepwater Horizon is easily one of the more effective disaster movies ever made. Director Peter Berg continues his streak of telling true heroic stories by way of impressive big scale filmmaking. And the Blu-ray is a must watch experience, featuring a sound mix that is nothing short of reference quality!