Deepwater Horizon Parent Review

The film effectively tells a terrifying story of heroics and hubris.

Overall B+

Based on the real disaster that caused a major oil spill in 2012, this fictional story is set aboard the drilling rig named Deepwater Horizon. The movie follows the harrowing experiences of a worker and family man (Mark Wahlberg).

Violence C+
Sexual Content B
Profanity C-
Substance Use B

Deepwater Horizon is rated PG-13 for prolonged intense disaster sequences and related disturbing images, and brief strong language.

Movie Review

Much was said about the environmental issues resulting from the oil well blowout far beneath the floating rig known as Deepwater Horizon, located in the Gulf of Mexico. During the spring of 2010, black crude gushed from the ocean floor for weeks, leaving the drilling operations’ owners BP (British Petroleum) on the hook for a $20 billion settlement due to their gross negligence. Yet for all the dead pelicans, destroyed businesses and spoiled beaches, not much has been told about the people who were on the rig. Their story is the niche this movie sets out to explore.

Mike Williams (Mark Whalberg), the rig’s chief electronics tech, is the focal character of this telling (in reality he was a key witness who testified to deficiencies on the rig). The opening minutes work to bond this family man in our hearts, while we watch him reluctantly leave his wife (Kate Hudson) and little girl (Stella Allen) for another three-week shift on Deepwater Horizon. (The parting from his spouse includes a brief moment of sensuality in the bedroom.) In a moment of unnecessary foreshadowing, his daughter pulls out a demonstration of how an oil rig works that involves a highly pressurized can of cola. The results spray over the kitchen table like the classic science fair volcano on steroids.

Joining his co-workers onboard, we meet Andrea (Gina Rodriguez), the only woman on the crew, seasoned rig chief Jimmy Harrell (Kurt Russell) and a litany of other laborers. Dialogue is dotted with jargon, profanities, a single sexual expletive and concerns about malfunctioning systems. However, the key that turns this into an almost too-coincidental-to-be-true affair is the presence of Don Virdine (John Malkovich), a BP boss who happens to be on the rig the fateful day it explodes. Already frustrated with weeks of delays that are costing the company millions, Virdine dismisses the need for testing recently poured cement. In a classic moment of ignoring the consequences and going “full speed ahead”, the boss demands that the mud holding back the pressurized oil be pumped out so the well may be prepped for extraction. And that’s when, literally, all hell breaks loose.

At this point the second half of Deepwater Horizon teeters on becoming a well-made disaster film. I say “teeters” because the point of sitting through this movie should not be for entertainment, but instead to understand the risks so many people take in the process of preparing fuel for us to put in our SUVs. Explosions rip through the rig’s structure repeatedly, tearing metal apart and trapping crew members deep under debris. We see various injuries with blood, including a man with a large glass shard in his foot. (After viewing this portrayal of the accident, it’s amazing only 11 people perished in the inferno.) Depicted through amazing special effects, the dialogue and action blur together in a believable way – albeit a superficial sampling of what the experience was like first hand.

Despite the carnage, the film effectively tells a terrifying story of heroics and hubris. While frightening for young children, the purpose for the intensity of the trauma should serve as a reminder that human lives were part of the price paid during the Deepwater Horizon catastrophe. Hopefully audiences will focus on that honorable sacrifice while watching this dramatization.

Directed by Peter Berg. Starring Kurt Russell, Dylan O'Brien, Mark Wahlberg. Running time: 107 minutes. Updated

Get details on profanity, sex and violence in Deepwater Horizon here.

Deepwater Horizon Parents Guide

Learn more about the Deepwater Horizon disaster.

What are the consequences of this disaster? That question depends on who you ask. Business Insider has a relatively positive view of the outcomes, even celebrating “new scientific discoveries” as a result of the oil spill. On the other hand, environmental groups, like Friends of the Earth, feel the consequences have been underestimated and are still causing long term harm.

Do you think our dependency on oil will change in the upcoming years? How do disasters like Deepwater Horizon affect public opinion of fossil fuels? Are there any energy sources without risks?