Disasters have a way of bringing out the best and the worst in humanity. In Mark Wahlberg’s latest thriller, Deepwater Horizon, a team of oil workers on British Petroleum’s rig in the Gulf of Mexico must fight for their lives when safety checks are bypassed in favor of more quickly acquiring oil. On a stranded ship, with nowhere to go, the crew will find that hope is the only thing left when everything else is lost.
Based on individuals who were present when the real-life disaster struck, Mike Williams (Wahlberg) is an electrician on the Deepwater Horizon rig, who comes aboard with the head of the rig’s drilling operation, Mr. Jimmy (Kurt Russell), for another three-week shift. As the safety team disembarks without completing their tasks, Jimmy and Williams express their frustration to the BP chain of command, namely Donald Vidrine (John Malkovich). Vidrine uses bullying and bravado to push through his desire to get the rig up to speed, ignoring the advice of the more experienced drillmen and the rig’s engineer, Andrea Fleytas (Gina Rodriguez).
Then disaster strikes. As the pressure from the system pushes back from the ocean floor, various elements of the rig disintegrate - and finally catch fire. In a raging inferno, the crew of the Deepwater Horizon works to follow protocol, before realizing there is no protocol for what is self-destructing around them. Ultimately, they will rely on each other and their quick-witted electrician-turned-leader.
While the events of Deepwater Horizon seem straightforward, the prelude to this fateful shift is set up well by Williams’ interaction with his wife (Kate Hudson) and daughter. A bit about a science experiment at the kitchen table highlights how the drill should work, and foreshadows what could happen later. Sandwiching the flaming events of the night when all hell breaks loose on the other side, the audience sees how not everyone made it out alive; in fact, eleven men lost their lives.
Yes, Deepwater Horizon is certainly a disaster movie that shows the triumph of human nature. Even in moments when various members of the crew lay down their lives for another, it is clear that this isn’t ‘human nature’ but something greater guiding them against their natural impulse. The film’s subtle religious elements - Williams crosses himself early on, and the survivors share the Lord’s Prayer - speak to the way that hope is a real element in the film. In fact, the purpose of the film seems to show that given all of the things the crew faces, and which we may face in different situations, we are not yet overcome when we can hold on to hope.
In 2 Corinthians 4:7-12, Paul writes, “But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may also be revealed in our mortal body. So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you.”
Williams has a life-or-death conversation with a fellow survivor, standing atop the burning rig. He knows what he has to live for; he recognizes that while they have experienced nearly absolute destruction, there is still much to hold onto. Regardless of how it turns out, Williams is unwilling to surrender hope.
Walking away from the film, the audience can’t help but be inspired to hold onto hope as a result.