I caught Peter Berg‘s Deepwater Horizon (Lionsgate/Summit, 9.30) a few hours ago. It’s not subtle but not too difficult to sit through, and at least it’s over in 107 minutes. It’s an FX-driven fireball thing, mostly predictable in terms of story beats and cloying emotion. Call it a blend of Godzilla, Backdraft and The Towering Inferno. And based, of course, on a true story many of us know backwards and forwards — the April 2010 Deepwater Horizon explosion. Yes, just the explosion and how all those oil-rig workers in red jumpsuits managed to escape the resulting inferno, and then a little postscript info over the closing credits.
The film isn’t interested in the massive oil spill and the environmental catastrophe that followed. Sorry, that’s for your earth-friendly lefties. Deepwater Horizon is a megaplex movie for pizza-eating Americans.
The reason Berg has directed this film and not J.C. Chandor (who was canned off the project in early ’15) is because the Lionsgate/Summit guys wanted it kept simple and popcorny. Who cares about that boring ecological stuff? All the popcorn-munchers and Coke-slurpers want are those oil-rig inferno effects (crash-bam-BOOM!) plus a few hero-saves-the-day moves by Mark Wahlberg as real-life survivor and truth-teller Mike Williams…right? And that’s what this is — one of those event films that leave your head and become vapor 90 seconds after you leave the theatre.
But like many Hollywood films about complex subjects, Deepwater Horizon requires two immersions — one, the watching of the film and two, researching the facts online. Because the film is mainly for the grunts (morons, lazybrains, teenagers, under-educated 20 somethings, viewers from the People’s Republic of China) who want their boilerplate elements — explosions, fireballs, mud, grease, good-guy workers, asinine BP execs, guys screaming and groaning, etc.