In 2010, the Transocean exploratory rig Deepwater Horizon exploded, claiming eleven lives and spilling over 200 gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico. Negligence on behalf of British Petroleum contributed to the disaster (as personified in the film by John Malkovich’s slimy company man), but Deepwater Horizon isn’t concerned with pointing fingers – the subsequent boycott of BP and legal fallout is well documented.

It’s the human story, which got lost in the wake of the biggest ecological disaster in US history, that’s the focus of Peter Berg’s intense dramatisation. Deepwater Horizon details what unfolded aboard the rig from the crew’s perspective, establishing an ominous mood of impending disaster before dropping the audience into a raging inferno of exploding steel, toppling gantries and geysers of oil and mud.

Mark Wahlberg and Kurt Russell are the kind of guys you want around during a catastrophe of this magnitude, but even they are overwhelmed by the ferocity of the destruction. There are no heroics here; this is the story of a desperate scramble for survival, and it’s a miracle that more lives weren’t lost.

The tension builds like the pressure inside the straining pipes. The crew refer to the rig as “the well from hell”, air bubbles escape from cracks in the ocean floor, tortured metal screeches like a banshee, and dials spin into the danger zone. When the rig finally blows there is simply no let up: this is the cinematic equivalent of being caught in the midst of the maelstrom, and 107 minutes have never passed so quickly.

In cinemas: October 6, 2016star-4
Starring: Mark Wahlberg, Kurt Russell, John Malkovich
Directed by: Peter Berg