On April 20, 2010, the worst man-made ecological disaster in U.S. history and the loss of 11 men’s lives occurred because an oil company was greedy. Deepwater Horizon, starring Mark Wahlberg, recounts the story of the infamous BP oil disaster. To call it a spill doesn’t quite cut it.
The film opens by introducing us to the normal lives of the normal working class men and women who worked on Deepwater Horizon, the name of the oil platform 41 miles off the shore of Louisiana in the Gulf of Mexico. The fact that they are people just like us helps us to relate to them when they show extraordinary heroism in doing all they can to get as many as possible off the platform after skimping on safety causes an explosion.
The villain of the story is Donald Vidrine (John Malkovich), a BP representative tasked by the brass with getting Deepwater Horizon back on schedule. They’re 43 days behind in delivering oil due to much needed repairs to the platform’s equipment. Vidrine puts pressure on Mr. Jimmy (a fantastic Kurt Russell), Deepwater Horizon’s supervisor, to go ahead with the drilling despite serious safety concerns. Malkovich plays Vidrine as the slimy, smarmy bureaucrat we love to hate.
Wahlberg is Chief electronics technician Mike Williams, who finds himself in the unwanted role of hero when the rig fails, blows up, and explodes into flames. With everyone fearing for their lives, Williams gathers up the broken, bleeding workers and helps get them to lifeboats. He and Andrea Fleytas (Gina Rodriguez) take a leap of faith when all other avenues of escape are cut off.
Deepwater Horizon focuses on the oil rig’s demise and the worker’s fight for survival rather than the ecological aftermath of the disaster. It’s an amazing action film which, at the same time, honors the 11 men who died in the fires. It’s a bit difficult to follow the technical jargon which dominates the film’s dialogue but you don’t have to be an engineer to understand the stakes for these men and women.
There are probably many factors that contributed to the Deepwater Horizon explosion. The film makes it clear that it ultimately comes down to greed. The BP executives put profit before the good of the rig workers and cut corners when it came to safety. I’m guessing Pope Francis might like Deepwater Horizon because it makes clear what he’s been trying to say during his whole pontificate: we must put the good of people first, before any other concerns. Deepwater Horizon reminds us what happens when we don’t.