An astonishing Atmos audio mix puts you in the heart of the action in Peter Berg's disaster film
Based on the April 20, 2010, oil rig explosion that cost the lives of 11 men and caused the biggest ecological disaster in US history, Deepwater Horizon is a bruising piece of disaster cinema that brings the incident to life in adrenaline-pumping fashion.
The film dramatises the events from the point of view of the rig's chief electronics technician Mike Williams (Mark Wahlberg), his superior Jimmy Harrell (Kurt Russell) and navigation officer Andrea Fleytas (Gina Rodriguez). Trouble starts when they begin their latest shift on the rig only to learn that a crucial stability test has not been carried out on the drilling well. A tense meeting with resident BP liaison Donald Valdrine (John Malkovich) makes it clear the gas company is cutting corners in order to get the rig up and running as quickly as possible. And it isn't long before things go very badly wrong…
While it may be based on a true story, Deepwater Horizon has 'popcorn blockbuster' running through its DNA. As such, whatever it may lack in nuance (Malkovich's character is just as hiss-able as any pantomime villain) it makes up for with its ability to transport the viewer into the heart of the chaos. And what chaos it is. Filmed on a 85 per cent scale recreation of the rig, Deepwater Horizon has a sense of verisimilitude that something like San Andreas could never hope to capture. When the explosions start, it's impossible not to think that this is exactly what it would have looked and sounded like at the time. Thankfully, you'll be parked on your sofa.
Picture: Shot with Arri Alexa cameras, Deepwater Horizon arrives on Blu-ray with an excellent AVC-encoded 2.40:1 1080p transfer of some pretty tricky source material.
The sheer amount of muck and debris being thrown around in the film's second act would be enough to derail a lesser encode, but Lionsgate's disc takes it all in its stride, regularly filling the screen with finely rendered details. As night falls in the film, black levels are pushed to the limit too, contrasting extremely well with the bright yellows, oranges and reds of the inferno that envelops the rig.
Picture rating: 5/5
Audio: As good as the picture quality is, the audio is even better. Indeed, Deepwater Horizon's Dolby Atmos mix is one of the most engrossing tracks we've heard in a long time. Right from the off there's an immersive feel to the audio (check out the way dialogue is deliberately drowned out by the helicopters as the crew arrives at the rig in Chapter 3) and it gets bigger and more explosive from Chapter 9 onwards. Spatial effects are perfectly positioned, LFE has a real physical presence and there's a massive sense of scale to the presentation.
Audio rating: 5/5
Extras: Beyond the Horizon is a 51-minute collection of featurettes focusing mainly – but not exclusively – on the principal cast. Also included are separate featurettes about director Peter Berg (18 minutes) and the recreation of the rig (27 minutes), plus a dozen behind-the-scenes clips.
Extras rating: 3/5
We say: A gripping true-life disaster flick made even more thrilling on Blu-ray via superb Dolby Atmos audio and slick visuals.
Deepwater Horizon, Lionsgate, Region B BD, £25
HCC VERDICT: 4/5
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