Based on the true events surrounding the disaster of an offshore free-floating oilrig in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010, Deepwater Horizon has Peter Berg (Lone Survivor, Hancock) in the director's chair but his style here has all the earmarks of Paul Greengrass. Father of one, Mark Wahlberg is the chief technician aghast to find when he touches down on the titular rig run by BP that the team employed to run tests on the suspect well have been sent home by management without the necessary inspection. He's not pleased and neither is Kurt Russell, in charge of safety, who berates BP man John Malkovich for the dangerous move. Malkovich pushes the team to drill even though the pressure test comes back and, well.
A movie of two halves, it's the build-up to the disaster that actually works a lot better. It mightn't have the action a gogo the second half boasts – and that's why we're here really, isn’t it? – but it's slow creep of the first forty-five minutes that keeps one on edge. Matthew Michael Carnahan and Matthew Sand's script (the former has penned Lions For Lambs and State of Play) script takes its time introducing the happy faces that will be grimacing later and doesn't worry that the tech-heavy dialogue will be lost on most; the gist is important: honest guys reluctant to drill as well is unstable, money-greedy company hell-bent on payload as soon as possible.
When the inevitable happens and the well blows, sending mud three point five miles back up to the surface at a pressure that would "slice your car", Deepwater Horizon struggles hard to offer something different than The Towering Inferno meets The Poseidon Adventure (incidentally Russell starred in the remake of the latter). Berg's 'Greengrassisms' (What? It's a word!) of shaky cam and deliberately confusing action scenarios (Which way is up here?) certainly add to the realism but it's a bit of an anti-climax after the sturdy build-up.
What's most disappointing that the pointed rage at corporate greed – personified by Malkovich's BP man – doesn't resurface; opening with what sounds like a court hearing, Berg doesn't return to same later to round things off and Deepwater Horizon feels like it's missing ten minutes.
Still, a solid disaster movie all the same.