Peter Berg and Mark Wahlberg have struck an incredibly productive partnership. The director and the movie star have collaborated on two previous projects, one was the war film Lone Survivor in 2013, and they also both produced the HBO TV series Ballers. Their newest collaboration is Deepwater Horizon and they have another three projects lined up for them in the future, one that comes out as early as this December (Patriots Day). But lets talk first about Deepwater.
Deepwater Horizon, like Lone Survivor, is based on true events. Berg this time focuses on the 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico that came from an oilrig explosion. Most of us remember the catastrophe in the news and the dire effects it had on the fauna and environment. While the toll on animals and the earth was great, what was often overlooked was the human loss on the rig and how it exactly happened. In the film we focus on the story of Mike Williams (Mark Wahlberg), one of the oilrig workers at Deepwater Horizon. Essentially the film lets us know that the oilrig and its workers are “rented” by BP, and this sets up the two sides of the story: the ignorant corporate officials (headed by John Malkovich), and the moral workers (represented by Wahlberg and a fantastic Kurt Russell).
The film’s primary objective is to explain the disaster, but it is also focused on humanizing our characters so that we can later feel the emotional impact of the event. Berg achieves this by portraying the interactions between the workers, which appear to be incredibly organic and real, and the family aspect, which here takes the shape of Mike’s wife (played by Kate Hudson). I was concerned that Berg might paint everything a bit too black and white, but he simply spewed facts and let them speak for themselves, allowing for an inevitable outcome to be reached by each audience member.
While I enjoyed Berg’s last film, Lone Survivor, I had felt that it went for too much bromance, and therefore I was glad to get female voices in this film with Hudson and Gina Rodriguez (who is spectacular as another of the oilrig workers). I also appreciated how Berg held back from the disaster and took his time in setting everything up: the characters, the impending problems, witty foreshadowing, etc. so that when we finally get into the action it is as exhilarating and it is shocking.
As for Mark Wahlberg, I had always made the argument that he was much stronger when in a supporting role (his best role to date for me is in The Departed), but in Deepwater he’s sincerely proven me wrong, putting on a mesmerizing performance as our titular hero.
So Deepwater Horizon ends up striking gold for Berg and Wahlberg. It is an expertly woven film that explains an incredibly dire event in our recent history. The film certainly makes us hopeful for Berg and Wahlberg’s future collaborations.