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Watch This Review

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Movie Review

On the evening of April 20, 2010, some 40 miles off the Louisiana coast in the Gulf of Mexico, things went awry.

But on the morning of the 20th, chief electrician Mike Williams and crew manager Jimmy Harrell didn't have any inkling of the horrific oil-spewing disaster that was just hours from erupting. No, they just knew it was time for another tour on their offshore drilling rig, Deepwater Horizon. Just another long 21-day shift away from their families.

In fact, when those blue-collar contractors step off the helicopter onto the deck of their floating rig, things start off as they always do. There are, oh, dozens of systems that could use a bit of tender love from Mike's crew—from computer terminals to phones. And Harrell—or "Mr. Jimmy" as he's known to his men—has to have some one-on-one time with the British Petroleum execs who are belligerently tossing out unrealistic orders to his men again.

You see, those money-hungry bigwigs are wringing their hands over mounting delays in Deepwater's scheduled delivery of its black gold prize from the ocean depths. They are so panicked, in fact, that they're demanding that safety precautions be bypassed for the sake of expediency and efficiency. That doesn't sit well with Mr. Jimmy. But the biggest of the wigs, Donald Vidrine, isn't averse to applying as much pressure as necessary to get the rig back on schedule.

Of course, the real roughnecks know that corporate pressure is the least of their worries on a deep-water rig. It's the oil pressure, bubbling up from some 20,000 feet down, that you have to worry about. One skipped safety check could be dangerous. No, it could be deadly.

And, well, that's exactly what it became.

One tiny pressure leak leads to another issue, then another, until the whole bubbling time bomb of gas and crude oil can no longer be controlled or contained. And in the space of a few fateful moments, fiery explosions, hurtling workers, twisting metal beams and crumbling platforms are everywhere.

In that kind of hellish situation, what do good men do? Mike Williams, Jimmy Harrell and the crew of the Deepwater Horizon are about to answer that question.


Positive Elements

Deepwater Horizon declares that heroes are just average Joes and Janes who step up when the chips are down. And we see that happen over and over as Mike moves through his crippled rig, doing his best to help as many members of his crew survive as possible. He repeatedly risks his life, calming the panicked, carrying the injured and forcibly clearing pathways to rescue. Several other crew members actually die while trying to save their fellow rig mates.

When the survivors make it out, it's clear that the disaster has given them a sharper perspective on what really matters in life. They realize that the only truly valuable things are life itself and those they love, values that are visually represented by images of family members rushing in to hold and comfort the wounded after their rescue.

Spiritual Content

Before a helicopter ride from shore, Mike crosses himself. And after the disaster, the surviving crewmembers kneel and pray the Lord's Prayer together.

Sexual Content

After waking in bed together, Mike and his wife, Felicia, talk and then begin to kiss passionately. He's shirtless and in boxers, while she's dressed in a revealing T-shirt and skimpy underwear. Later, their young daughter quips about not interrupting their lovemaking.

Elsewhere, someone talks of having a sexually aggressive cat.

Violent Content

Once the unchecked oil pressure from the deep starts bubbling up through Deepwater's overwhelmed systems, we see how it creates one cascading crisis after another until the entire rig is enveloped in a series of explosions and raging fires. The resulting 30 to 40 minutes of cinematic destruction is extremely intense.

Rivets fire from metal fixtures like bullets, men are slammed viciously into walls and through shattered glass, shrapnel repeatedly tears faces and exposed flesh. The oil rig truly seems like a battlefield as many are left huddled and crying out in agony. Each new metal-rending explosion and eruption is deafening and deadly.

After being slammed by an explosion while he's in the shower, Jimmy wakes to find himself blinded and covered with blood. He slowly pulls a six inch shard of metal out of his foot. Another guy has his leg caught between two metal rails, and Mike must forcibly snap his protruding shin bone in order to free him. Another worker gets impaled by a huge chunk of hurtling debris. Men run wildly after being engulfed in flames. Fire balls rain down. And nearly everyone we see is lacerated, gashed, bruised and swollen by the time they limp and swim their way to rescue.

Crude or Profane Language

Two f-words and more than 25 s-words join a couple of uses each of "h--," "a--," "b--ch" and "b--tard." Jesus' and God's name are both abused, with God being combined with "d--n" three times.

Drug and Alcohol Content

Felicia drinks a beer.

Other Negative Elements

A BP executive decides to pull a half-full lifeboat away from the flaming Deepwater rig, selfishly leaving other swimming survivors behind.


Back in 2010, in the wake of the real-world Deepwater Horizon disaster, nonstop news coverage mostly centered on the catastrophic damage that an oil spill of that magnitude would inflict upon the environment. The country watched underwater shots of the ravaged well spewing oil for 87 days, leaking some 200 million gallons of crude into the Gulf's waters.

If viewers are curious about how the accident happened, then director Peter Berg's pic will certainly give them plenty of technical details to chew on. That said, much of the film's engineering jargon and quick cuts to "drill lines," "kill lines" and rupturing underwater mechanisms can feel a bit inside-baseball for anyone who's never spent a season in the roughneck trade.

But this isn't really a movie about something as simple as an oil spill anyway. This is an unambiguous disaster flick of the first order. After the obligatory character introductions and the similarly obligatory oil-execs-ignoring-safety-rules-for-greedy-reasons preamble, the movie cuts loose with its main course of incredibly realistic fiery devastation.

And this isn't your typical superhero pic kind of CGI destruction, mind you. This is the duck-from-flying-shrapnel-and-wince-away-from-raging-flames-and-thick-spewing-rivers-of-mud-and-oil-while-you-grip-your-theater-seat kind. Deepwater is as much a hero's tale on a terrifyingly different kind of battlefield as it is anything else.

And that fact gets at the movie's greatest strength and its most glaring problem, all at once.

On the one hand, this movie makes it clear that during a truly terrifying and chaotic experience like this one, there are those who bravely step forward to aid and protect others. And we're not talking about folks with an indestructible S on their overalls. No, we're talking about real, flawed human beings here, the vulnerable, breakable sort who give their all anyway, with no guaranty that their efforts will accomplish the hoped-for outcome. And later, when the terrible things are over, those bloodied heroes reach for comfort and healing from the things of true value in their lives: their families and loved ones. It makes for an inspiring tale to be sure.

On the other hand, though, terror is terror. From shrapnel-torn flesh to protruding bones, thundering eruptions to chunks of metal yanked from hideous wounds, this heroic story is not an easy film to experience. It's filled with images of bloody violence that likely get pretty close to the boundaries of what a moviemaker can get away with in a PG-13 film.

Six years ago, the Deepwater Horizon spill left us with TV images of oily waves and gulls coated in sebaceous gunk. Today's Deepwater Horizon leaves us with more visceral and dreadful images of the many ripped and torn, and the eleven lives lost in that same dire event.

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