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Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Peter Berg|
|Story by||Matthew Sand|
|Based on||Deepwater Horizon's Final Hours
by David Barstow
|Music by||Steve Jablonsky|
|Distributed by||Summit Entertainment|
|Box office||$121.8 million|
Deepwater Horizon is a 2016 American biopic disaster film. It was directed by Peter Berg, written by Matthew Sand and Matthew Michael Carnahan, and starring an ensemble cast including Mark Wahlberg, Kurt Russell, John Malkovich, Gina Rodriguez, Dylan O'Brien and Kate Hudson. It is based on the 2010 Deepwater Horizon explosion and oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.
Principal photography began on April 27, 2015 in New Orleans, Louisiana. The film premiered at the 2016 Toronto International Film Festival and was theatrically released in the United States on September 30, 2016. It received generally positive reviews and grossed over $121 million worldwide. The film was nominated for two Oscars at the 89th Academy Awards: Best Sound Editing and Best Visual Effects, and a BAFTA Award for Best Sound at the 70th British Academy Film Awards.
On April 20, 2010, Deepwater Horizon, an oil drilling rig operated by private contractor Transocean, is set to begin drilling off the southern coast of Louisiana on behalf of BP. Chief Electronics Technician Michael "Mike" Williams (Mark Wahlberg) and rig supervisor James "Mr. Jimmy" Harrell (Kurt Russell) are surprised to learn that the workers assigned to pump the cement intended to keep the well stable are being sent home early, without conducting a pressure test, at the insistence of BP managers Donald Vidrine (John Malkovich) and Robert Kaluza (Brad Leland). While Mike prepares the drilling team, including Caleb Holloway (Dylan O'Brien), Harrell meets with Vidrine and persuades him to conduct a test, which only serves to weaken the already poorly placed cement further. His patience thinning, and without waiting for Harrell to confirm the results, Vidrine orders the well to be flowed.
At first, the operation goes smoothly, but the cement job eventually fails completely, triggering a massive blowout that overpowers and kills Keith Manuel, Shane Roshto, Roy Kemp, Karl Kleppigner, Adam Weise and Gordon Jones.
A chain of equipment malfunctions, coupled with a failed attempt to seal the well, ignites the oil, killing Dewey Revette, Stephen Curtis, Jason Anderson (Ethan Suplee) and Donald Clark. Andrea Fleytas (Gina Rodriguez), the rig's navigation officer, tries to alert the Coast Guard, only to be overruled by her superior, Captain Curt Kuchta, on the grounds that the rig is not in any imminent danger. With oil now spewing into the ocean, a frightened, oil covered pelican flies into the bridge of a nearby vessel, which heads towards the rig just as the workers begin a frantic evacuation. Harrell, still alive, although seriously injured in the explosion, is rescued by Mike and assumes control of the situation, only to discover that the rig could not be saved. Dale Burkeen, a close friend of Mike's, sacrifices himself to keep a burning crane from collapsing onto the surviving crew, while Mike and Caleb are able to rescue Vidrine and Kaluza and get them to safety.
As night falls and the burning oil lights up the area, the Coast Guard becomes aware of the incident and sends a ship to collect the survivors, which are being ferried in the lifeboats to the Damon Bankston. With all the lifeboats full, Mike locates the emergency life raft, but it becomes separated from the rig before he and Andrea can board, causing the latter to suffer a panic attack. Just as the oil in the well itself ignites and destroys the rig, the two jump into the water and are picked up by rescuers, who then ferry them to the Damon Bankston.
Returned home, the workers reunite with their families in a hotel lobby, during which a relative of one of the dead crew members family angrily confronts Mike for failing to save his son, resulting in Mike having a panic attack himself. The film ends with a series of clips showing the aftermath of the disaster, including testimony from the real-life Mike Williams and the revelation that not a single employee of either Transocean or BP was prosecuted for their actions. Pictures appear of the 11 men who lost their lives before the credits.
On March 8, 2011, it was announced that Summit Entertainment, Participant Media, and Image Nation had acquired the film rights to The New York Times' article Deepwater Horizon's Final Hours, written by David Barstow, David S. Rohde, and Stephanie Saul, and published on December 25, 2010, about the 2010 Deepwater Horizon explosion and subsequent oil spill. Matthew Sand was set to write the screenplay, while Lorenzo di Bonaventura was in talks to produce the film under his Di Bonaventura Pictures banner. Summit and Participant Media/Imagination would also finance the film. On acquiring the article to develop into a film, the president of Participant Media, Ricky Strauss said,
This is a perfect fit for us–a suspenseful and inspiring real-life account of everyday people whose values are tested in the face of an impending environmental disaster.
On July 24, 2012, Ric Roman Waugh was in talks with the studios to direct the film, Mark Vahradian was set to produce the film along with Bonaventura, and Lions Gate Entertainment also joined the project to produce and distribute. On July 11, 2014, it was announced that All Is Lost's director J. C. Chandor had been hired to direct the film; the screenplay's first draft was written by Sand, while Matthew Michael Carnahan wrote the second draft. In early October, it was confirmed that Summit would distribute the film, not Lionsgate. On January 30, 2015, it was reported that Lone Survivor director Peter Berg had replaced Chandor, and would re-team with Wahlberg on the film. Chandor exited due to creative differences.
On August 19, 2014, casting began, with actor Mark Wahlberg added in the lead role of the film. Wahlberg plays Mike Williams, a real-life electronics technician on the Deepwater Horizon oil rig. On March 18, 2015, Gina Rodriguez was set to play a woman named Andrea Fleytas, who was on the bridge on board the Deepwater Horizon at the time of the blowout, and frantically tried to contact the Coast Guard. On April 10, 2015, Deadline reported that Dylan O'Brien was in talks to play Caleb Holloway. Kurt Russell joined the film on the same day O'Brien was in talks. Soon after, John Malkovich was confirmed cast, as a BP representative who fatally underestimates the dangers of working on the rig. Kate Hudson was announced as a cast member in May, 2015, and playing the wife of Wahlberg's character; her role will be her first on-screen pairing with Russell, her stepfather, although they shared no dialogue in the film.
The film cost a total of $156 million to produce, with $122 million spent in Louisiana. As a result, Lionsgate (the studio financing the film) received a $37.7 million subsidy from the state, under Louisiana's film incentive program. Later estimates put the amount at $110 million.
Deepwater Horizon had its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival, on September 13, where it received a standing ovation from audiences after the screening. It opened in theaters on September 30, 2016, distributed by Summit Entertainment in the United States and Canada, and by Lionsgate Entertainment internationally.
Deepwater Horizon grossed $61.4 million in the United States and Canada and $60.4 million in other territories for a worldwide total of $121.8 million.
In the United States and Canada, Deepwater Horizon was projected to gross $16–20 million from 3,259 theaters in its opening weekend, although some publications noted Wahlberg's films tend to outperform box office projections. The film made $860,000 from its Thursday night previews at 2,400 theaters, and $7.1 million on its first day. In total, the film earned $20.2 million during its opening weekend, debuting at number two at the box office behind Tim Burton's Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children. The film was released at a time when the marketplace was already dominated by two other adult-skewing pictures, The Magnificent Seven and Sully. The film over-performed in the Gulf Coast region, and also did exceptionally well in IMAX, which earned $2.7 million of the film's total opening weekend.
The film's opening weekend was regarded as underwhelming and a disappointment, given its hefty production budget, but dramas released during the fall, and Wahlberg's films, tend to have box office legs. Forbes called the opening "good, but not great", especially considering the solid reviews. While most adult-skewing films would generally be made on a conservative budget in order to protect themselves financially, Deepwater Horizon was produced for $110–120 million (after tax rebates). Box office analyst Jeff Block said the film was "a hard sell. This should have been a $60 million film. The budget was out of control." Recent real-life drama films such as Sully ($60 million budget), Bridge of Spies ($40 million) and Captain Phillips ($55 million) were made for more moderate amounts. The Hollywood Reporter noted that when Hollywood spends north of $100 million on a film, it is intended for a much broader audience, but that was not the case for Deepwater Horizon, as the main demographics were adults, with 67% of the total ticket buyers during its opening weekend being over the age of 35. Another possible reason for the film's mediocre debut was its marketing miss, which was also a subject of criticism; from the outset, Lionsgate marketed the film as a heroic tale versus an issues-oriented movie. The name "Deepwater Horizon" itself is more associated with the aftermath of the spill than the heroics of the men who survived and helped their fellow workers.
Outside North America, Deepwater Horizon opened simultaneously in 52 markets, and grossed $12.4 million, of which IMAX made up $1 million 119 IMAX screens. The U.K. was the top earning market, with $2.6 million, followed by the Middle East ($1.5 million), Taiwan ($1.4 million), Australia ($1.3 million), and Russia ($1.2 million). In China, the film opened on Tuesday, November 15, where it delivered a six-day opening weekend of $7.9 million, debuting in third place, behind local film I Am Not Madame Bovary and the continuation of Doctor Strange. The next major markets to open were Germany (November 24) and Spain (November 25).
Deepwater Horizon received generally positive reviews from critics. On Rotten Tomatoes the film has an approval rating of 84% based on 222 reviews with an average rating of 7/10. The site's critical consensus reads, "Deepwater Horizon makes effective use of its titular man-made disaster to deliver an uncommonly serious – yet still suitably gripping – action thriller." On Metacritic, the film has a score 68 out of 100 based on 52 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews". Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "A–" on an A+ to F scale.
Todd McCarthy of The Hollywood Reporter gave the film a positive review, writing, "ruggedness and resilience counts for far more in the characterizations here than does nuance, and everyone delivers as required. From a craft and technical point of view, the film is all but seamless, a credit to the extra care taken to avoid a CGI look." Mike Ryan of Uproxx praised the film's performances and ability to make audiences angry at BP: "I’ll be honest, I didn’t think we needed a movie about this subject. I’ve changed my mind. And, if nothing else, I hope it gets people angry again, because the people who did this to our planet, and killed 11 people in the process, got off too easy." Benjamin Lee of The Guardian praised Berg's direction as "admirably, uncharacteristically restrained...[He] stages the action horribly well, capturing the panic and gruesome mayhem without the film ever feeling exploitative. It’s spectacularly constructed, yet it doesn’t forget about the loss of life, ensuring that, despite thin characterisation, the impact is felt."
Former crew members started their own crowd-funded documentary project before the film's release, out of frustration with factual liberties taken in the film script and in the media.
|2016||Teen Choice Awards||Choice AnTEENcipated Movie Actor||Dylan O'Brien||Won|||
|2017||National Board of Review||Spotlight Award||Mark Wahlberg and Peter Berg (also for Patriots Day)||Won|||
|People's Choice Awards||Favorite Dramatic Movie||Deepwater Horizon||Nominated|||
|Annie Awards||Outstanding Achievement, Animated Effects in a Live Action Production||Raul Essig, Mark Chataway, George Kuruvilla and Mihai Cioroba||Nominated|||
|Visual Effects Society Awards||Outstanding Supporting Visual Effects in a Photoreal Feature||Craig Hammack, Petra Holtorf-Stratton, Jason Snell, John Galloway and Burt Dalton||Won|||
|Outstanding Model in a Photoreal or Animated Project||Kelvin Lau, Jean Bolte, Kevin Sprout and Kim Vongbunyong||Won|
|British Academy Film Awards||Best Sound||Mike Prestwood Smith, Dror Mohar, Wylie Stateman and David Wyman||Nominated|||
|Society of Camera Operators Awards||Camera Operator of the Year – Film||Jacques Jouffret||Nominated|||
|MPSE Golden Reel Awards||Feature English Language – Effects/Foley||Wylie Stateman, Renée Tondelli, Gary Hecker, Rick Owens, Sylvain Lasseur, Dror Mohar and Kris Fenske||Nominated|||
|Academy Awards||Best Sound Editing||Wylie Stateman and Renée Tondelli||Nominated|||
|Best Visual Effects||Craig Hammack, Jason Snell, Jason Billington and Burt Dalton||Nominated|