Mark Wahlberg in Age of Extinction

Paramount Pictures

It should be no surprise to anyone that there’s a BP oil spill movie in development. It’s primo subject material in that it hits all the necessary check marks for any “based on a true story” event movie.

  • It’s timely – it was a mere four years ago the Deepwater Horizon oil rig blew, seeping a small ocean of oil into the Gulf.
  • It’s exciting – the spill first stemmed from an explosion, which certainly perked up Hollywood’s ears — if Hollywood is a sucker for one thing, it’s non-fiction violence. Exhibit A through E: Twelve Years a Slave, The Hurt Locker, Titanic, Braveheart and Schindler’s List.
  • It’s just as relevant today as it was in 2010 – did you know that the plugged-up well may still be leaking oil into the Atlantic?

Deepwater Horizon already has its director in J.C. Chandor (All is Lost) and screenwriter in Matthew Michael Carnahan (World War Z) and what it’s just gained according to Deadline is a potential star in Mark Wahlberg who’s now in negotiations to play the Deepwater Horizon’s number two manager. The man fought to save lives while everything in his general vicinity was covered in crude oil and also on fire. Classic Wahlberg.

It’s just like that time he played Marcus Luttrell in Lone Survivor, persevering against a conflict that could also be read about in several years ago’s news. Also The Perfect Storm, when Wahlberg again struggled heroically against the forces of historically accurate things that go boom.

The issue is which flavor of Wahlberg we get; which, in turn, is based on the kind of movie that Chandor ends up making. If he’s given all the creative freedom his heart could desire (the kind of freedom that led to this thought: “Robert Redford, on a boat,  pelted with rain- that’s the movie”), then Deepwater Horizon is probably headed in an intelligent and introspective direction.

In that case, we’d get Prestige Picture Wahlberg of such films as Lone Survivor or The Fighter, a Wahlberg that can pull off something a little headier, flexing the acting muscles that are so often shoved rudely out of the way by his actual muscles. Speaking of  which, Wahlberg’s muscles will also sell you muscle powder to make your own muscles even muscle-ier. Muscles.

But it all depends on what kind of a film Lionsgate wants Deepwater Horizon to be. Employing Chandor is a step in the right direction. The presence of producers Lorenzo di Bonaventura and Mark Vahradian — who’ve previously teamed up to executive produce all four Transformers films, plus a couple REDs and a The Devil Inside — isn’t so positive.

And if Lionsgate wants a big Pearl Harbor of a Deepwater Horizon film, we’ll mostly likely be getting Transformers Wahlberg, who will kneel by the body of a baby duck, choked out of existence by gushing black crude and scream to the heavens while fighter jets fly overhead for some reason.

There’s pull in both directions. Bonaventura and Vahradian are working on another true-to-life hero feature about the Granite Mountain Hotshots firefighter crew, which could point at them pursuing a series of Lone Survivor-esque films. But we don’t yet know how big that one will be.

And we do know that Deepwater Horizon isn’t about pesky morality or politics, but about one man coming face to face with a towering wall of burning oil and that it will be a “big-scale” drama.

Wahlberg will be fine either way. Whether we, the consumer, are, is an entirely different story.


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