What I didn't realise was that the spill was preceded by a terrible conflagration on the eponymous drilling platform and considerable loss of life (eleven dead).
This movie ducks the whole environmental issue — and also has nothing to say about the culpability of Haliburton — but it is an absolutely riveting and deeply suspenseful account of the battle for survival on the doomed Transocean rig, and a damning indictment of the complacency, penny pinching and recklessness of BP which led to the disaster.
There's a terrific scene where our hero, Mark Wahlberg, reels off a long list of malfunctioning equipment on the oil platform, in a kind of homage to his list of girl’s porno names in Ted. Listening to him, but not taking it in, is John Malkovitch — just great as a slimy, serpentine BP executive who pushes the drill team to lethal folly.
Kurt Russell is wonderfully grizzled as Wahlberg's boss. Kate Hudson is effective enough as Wahlberg's loving spouse, but she has a fairly non-existent role as a stay at home wife and mom...
Much better is Gina Rodriguez as Andrea Fleytas, navigation equipment operator and one of three female Transocean employees on Deepwater Horizon. There's a nice running gag about why her Mustang won't start...
And some agonisingly frustrating and infuriating sequences in which the captain in the control room keeps overriding her (entirely correct) decisions to send a Mayday signal and cut the pipe. These are particularly powerful moments and really engage the audience emotionally, as this idiot stops Fleytas doing the right thing.
Deepwater Horizon is directed by Peter Berg, who recently filmed Lone Survivor, with Mark Wahlberg getting shot to pieces in Afghanistan. Before that he made Battleship, a favourite guilty pleasure of mine.
The script makes some neat moves, such as illustrating the nature of the oil waiting under pressure in rocks by hammering a spout into a Coke can. And the way the pipeline is secured with drilling mud by pouring honey into the spout. Followed by a premonitory accident as the fizzy drink pours out, everywhere,
The film is written by Matthew Michael Carnahan (World War Z, The Kingdom) and Matthew Sand (Ninja Assassin) and it's based on a New York Times article by David Rohde and Stephanie Saul.
This is a classic disaster movie, beautifully made and utterly involving. I commend it highly. There was one annoyingly mawkish moment, when all the survivors drop to their knees on the mud barge to give thanks in prayer — to the god who's just set their rig on fire and murdered their friends.
But I guess there are no atheists in foxholes.
(Image credits: a virtual gusher of posters at Imp Awards.)