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What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Deepwater Horizon is an action drama based on the real-life 2010 explosion of a BP oil rig that led to 11 deaths and the greatest oil spill in history. Directed by Peter Berg and starring Mark Wahlberg, the movie should appeal to teens and adults who enjoy life-and-death stories that involve acts of heroism, courage, and sacrifice. The events leading up to the explosion can be frightening, and the action sequences are both intense and thrilling, especially since -- unlike the somewhat similar The Perfect Storm -- it's not clear who will and won't survive. The language includes many uses of "s--t" (plus some other words), and an early love scene shows kissing and bare shoulders/legs.
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What's the story?
DEEPWATER HORIZON is based on the real events leading up to the BP oil spill off the Gulf of Mexico on April 20, 2010. The movie, directed by Peter Berg, focuses on a few of the heroes of the day. They're the supervisors and technicians who risked their lives for others' safety, including electrical technician Mike Williams (Mark Wahlberg), who has a wife (Kate Hudson) and daughter to go home to; crew chief "Mr. Jimmy" (Kurt Russell); and one of the only women on the rig, Andrea Fleytas (Gina Rodriguez). The villains of the story are the BP company men who seemed to care more about profit than people's safety. They're led by Vidrine (John Malkovich), who orders Jimmy to go ahead and drill despite the chief's safety concerns.
Is it any good?
Despite knowing the story's tragic outcome, audiences will be totally caught up in Berg's tribute to how ordinary people proved extraordinary during the 2010 BP oil rig explosion. Even though a lot of the technical dialogue will go over most viewers' head, the script seems very realistic and, at first, like a typical workplace drama. But there's an underlying tension to every scene of Deepwater Horizon as moviegoers wonder exactly when disaster will strike. Besides Mike's home life and one quick glimpse of Andrea's boyfriend, nobody gets much personal development. Because the story's not about the people they'll return to, but about those they worked and survived (or died) with on the rig.
It's easy to turn corporations into bad guys, but Berg manages to do it without oversimplifying the situation. Malkovich, using a Louisiana drawl, glibly explains why BP needs the crew to drill -- and why the borderline safety test results are just good enough to ignore. Of course, it's the company men's profit-driven decisions that lead to the disaster, and the fact that they all survive may remind you of how the White Star execs all got on the lifeboats in Titanic. Berg is very talented at portraying disaster and exploring the heroism of those who show courage under fire, and he doesn't disappoint.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the scary, tense scenes in Deepwater Horizon. Do you consider them violent? What's the difference in impact between what you see in a movie like this and what you might see in a superhero or horror movie?
How close do you think the movie is to the real story? Why might filmmakers change the facts in movies based on real-life events? Does the movie make you interested in learning more about what happened?
Why do you think movies based on real tragic events are so compelling, even if audiences (theoretically) know how they end? How can fact-based movies maintain/encourage suspense? Does it matter if you know what's going to happen?
- In theaters: September 30, 2016
- On DVD or streaming: January 10, 2017
- Cast: Mark Wahlberg, Kate Hudson, Dylan O'Brien
- Director: Peter Berg
- Studios: Summit Entertainment, Lionsgate
- Genre: Drama
- Topics: History
- Character Strengths: Courage
- Run time: 97 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: prolonged intense disaster sequences and related disturbing images, and brief strong language
- Last updated: September 20, 2019
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