Deepwater Horizon: The most entertaining Hollywood Disaster movie since Armageddon

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Peter Berg has done it again. The American is quite simply THE daddy of disaster movies and his latest offering is once again a must see – unless you work for BP.

He`s in his element playing to such black-and-white absolutes of good and evil. This truly is a visceral and harrowing piece of filmmaking. It’s smart and boy does it pack a punch. Prepare to get walloped with a clenched fist.

The decision to turn the largest environmental disaster in American history into a Hollywood Blockbuster was undoubtedly a huge risk. There’s a fine line between paying homage to and exploiting the deceased. Thankfully the screenplay has nailed it by sticking to the facts. It follows the trajectory of the superb New York Times article by David Barstow, David Rohde and Stephanie Saul and there are no half-truths here. Deepwater Horizon is a story of white-collar corporate greed versus blue-collar common sense and work ethic.

There was no need to fictionalise the disaster to add in a baddie to provide focus and tension. BP is the villain here pure and simple and John Malkovich as their executive Donald Vidrine has his best role since his Oscar nominated turn in “In the Line of Fire”. He’s slimy, obnoxious and oozes so much smarm that we are left in no doubt as to who’s to blame here. He’s a coward who hides within himself as soon as things start to go wrong.

Anyone who watched “Lone Survivor” knows that Berg is drawn to stories of heroism in unimaginable circumstances. He loves a character-driven approach and spends the first half focusing on four contractors aboard the rig that fateful day as he outlines the events that led to the disaster. There’s Chief Electronics Technician Mike Williams (Mark Wahlberg), Dynamic Positioning Operator Andrea Fleytas (Gina Rodriguez), crew chief Jimmy Harrell(Kurt Russell) and the youngest man on board Caleb Holloway (Dylan O’Brien). These characters are so authentic they may as well have oil running through their veins.

True to the disturbing law of the genre I sat waiting hungrily for the Deepwater Horizon to blow. The tension builds and builds until the pressure, quite literally, becomes too much. It`s about 45 minutes before mud and oil jettison uncontrollably from the rig and from that point onward it really is edge of your seat stuff. It’s a heart pounding experience. I want to say it`s chaos, but that is too small a word. Every burst of steam feels momentous because these are real people trying to stop the inevitable. The bravery of the crew latches onto every sympathetic fibre in your body.

With all the explosions, fireballs, crashing metal and general catastrophic pandemonium breaking out all over the place I could hardly understand a word of the dialogue. You literally cannot hear what the hell is going on half of the time - Subtitles would definitely be beneficial. Throw in the shaky handheld camerawork of Enrique Chediak and it’s an unprecedented undecipherable cinematic experience. Damn it’s claustrophobic. Yet, to be honest, I couldn’t care less. It’s the most entertaining Hollywood Disaster movie since Armageddon -made all the more powerful by the terror of its reality.

Don’t be surprised to see BP harass Summit Entertainment.

Follow Phil on Twitter @pesreview