8 Things Parents Should Know About ‘Deepwater Horizon’

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Director Peter Berg joins up again with Mark Walhberg to tell the story of the Deepwater Horizon, based on a New York Times article about the rig. Below, we look at whether or not you should take your kids to see it.

1. What’s it about?

On April 20, 2010, the floating oil rig Deepwater Horizon exploded during a drilling test. Eleven men died in the accident, and for the next 83 days hundreds of millions of gallons of oil would gush into the Gulf of Mexico in the worst oil disaster in US history. The movie, which shares its name with the rig, details the days leading up to the accident, exploring its causes, and then follows the crew’s desperate struggle to escape.

2. Will I recognize anyone in the movie?

The movie has what Hollywood likes to call “an all-star cast.. In addition to lead Mark Wahlberg, who plays an electrical manager on the rig, the movie also stars Kate Hudson as his wife, Kate’s real-life stepfather Kurt Russell as the manager of the rig (interesting trivia fact: this is the first movie in which Hudson and Russell have appeared together), John Malkovich as one of the BP executives on the rig, and Jane the Virgin‘s Gina Rodriguez and Maze Runner‘s Dylan O’Brien as crew members. Fans of Berg’s TV classic Friday Night Lights will also recognize Brad Leland, who plays another BP exec. Many other characters are in the “I know I’ve seen him before” category.

3. What’s it rated? Why?

The MPAA gave the movie a PG-13 rating for “prolonged intense disaster sequences and related disturbing images, and brief strong language.”

Most of the final third or so of the movie follows the explosion, as the crew struggles to abandon the rig. There are lots of scenes in there of people getting thrown against walls and falling off things. While the movie doesn’t revel in gore, multiple fairly bloody injuries are sustained by most of the main characters.

I honestly don’t remember hearing much in the way of language. I’m guessing there might have been a few utterances of the “s” word, but nothing worse than that.

4. Will I like it?

I did enjoy the movie. It’s tightly directed and well acted. It’s fairly short–only 107 minutes–but doesn’t feel even that long. Despite the accident not occurring until over halfway through the movie, it doesn’t drag at all.

When I mentioned that I was seeing the movie on the GeekDad Slack channel, there was some concern that it might be too pro-oil for some tastes. So let me just put that issue to bed: the movie is an unflinching indictment of BP. The film’s focus is on the conflict between the Transocean crew of the Horizon and the BP execs on board. In the news stories following the accident, I was never exactly clear on the relationship between the two, but the movie cleared that up: Transocean owned and operated the rig, which BP was renting to do the drilling. Apparently, rigs like Horizon go in and dig the holes, and then other crews come along later and do the actual drilling. In the movie, the BP execs (in particular, Malkovich’s character) are shown being more concerned with profits than safety, and consistently order the Transocean crew (including the characters played by Russell and Wahlberg) to cut corners in order to get the well dug. The movie puts the accident squarely on BP’s shoulders, but does downplay Transocean’s part in what happened.

(The movie is also fairly educational, if you’re at all curious as to how deep water drilling is done. I assumed, incorrectly as it turns out, that Horizon and rigs like it drilled the wells and then also pumped out the oil, but now I know that those are two different operations–one set of rigs drill the wells, and then they move on to drill other wells while different rigs come in and do the actual oil extraction. I also learned that deep water rigs like Horizon are really ships. I guess I knew that they weren’t sitting on stilts in the ocean, but I did assume they were at least anchored in place. However, it turns out that they are in fact held in place over the well by propellers and motors and crew members who have to constantly monitor and adjust their position.)

5. Will my kids like it?

Younger kids will almost certainly find the first portion, which mostly involves people talking, to be pretty boring, and then the second part, after the explosion, to be pretty scary. I certainly wouldn’t recommend the movie for little ones.

Teens, particularly older teens, might find it interesting, however. There’s definitely enough action and stuff blowing up to keep them engaged.

6. When can I run to the bathroom?

As I mentioned above, the movie is pretty short, so you may be able to just make it through. There are a few slower scenes roughly a half hour in that you can skip, but once they start doing the pressure tests, at about the halfway mark, you want to stay put. Things happen pretty quickly after that, and you’re going to be missing a lot of really important stuff.

7. Is the movie worth seeing in IMAX or other premium/big format?

I saw the movie in a normal theater with normal screen size and whatnot and was fine. The last portion of the movie might be cooler to see on a bigger screen, but I would have a hard time actively recommending it for that.

8. Is there anything during or after the credits?

The first several minutes of the credits have text that tells what happened after the disaster, a nice tribute to the eleven men who were killed, and scenes from some of the hearings that followed the accident. Once the director’s name appears on screen, though, you can safely leave.

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