Mark Wahlberg Shines in 'Deepwater Horizon'

Wahlberg teams up again with director Peter Berg.

— -- Starring Mark Wahlberg and Kate Hudson

Rated - PG-13

Four out of five stars

Wahlberg’s acting continues to improve with age. Berg, an actor himself, is terrific at capturing special performances. And Wahlberg is pretty special here.

Wahlberg plays Mike Williams, an engineer on the "Deepwater Horizon," the offshore drilling rig in the Gulf of Mexico that exploded on April 20, 2010, killing 11 rig workers and causing the worst oil spill in U.S. history. But it’s the characters, not the action, that win us over here.

Wahlberg’s turned his cloying earnestness into a real strength, and immediately wins points when we see Mike on shore bonding with his young daughter, Sydney (Stella Allen), and his wife, Felicia, played by Kate Hudson.

Their love is palpable. Berg excels at building relationships and making characters three-dimensional, and it works here not only with Wahlberg’s character, but with virtually everyone who walks on screen. That includes Kurt Russell, who plays Jimmy Harrell, the rig’s captain, and the characters with oil company BP who put pressure on Harrell to pump oil from a well that’s unstable at best, which leads to the catastrophe.

There’s conflict in almost every moment of this movie, which speaks not only to Berg and his cast, but also to the brilliant screenplay by Matthew Michael Carnahan and Matthew Sand. Berg turns the story of the "Deepwater Horizon" into a nail-biting thriller, balancing the action with the humanity of a tragic event in an evocative and cathartic way.