Traditionally, action thrillers are far from Oscar bait, but they often show up in below-the-line categories. One of this weekend’s big releases is “Deepwater Horizon,” a film that recounts the events that led to the largest oil spill in United States history. The film was written by Oscar-nominated screenwriter J.C. Chandor, and stars Mark Wahlberg. Directing the film is Peter Berg, who has a penchant for strong action-thriller films. While Berg has made critically reviled films in the past, he is on the upswing. As of the time of writing, “Deepwater Horizon” sits at a 66 on Metacritic and 87% on Rotten Tomatoes. Berg will also release “Patriots Day” this year, which should continue to propel the director forward. With this in mind, what are your favorite Berg films? Here are a few of his best, and let us know your thoughts in the comments below!
1. “Friday Night Lights”
One of the films that launched Berg’s career was the story of a high school football team in Texas. “Friday Night Lights” is one of the best sports films of the the last 16 years, and easily grabs the title among football films. Berg mixes intense football scenes with intense character drama. Films like “Remember the Titans” may be more star-studded, but the relative lack of stars makes “Friday Night Lights” endearing. Berg’s camera works to establish an almost documentary style tone for the film, giving the audience a view of a world that few understand. In the South, high school football can be a cultural milestone of the year, and Berg conveys this extremely well throughout the film. This film showcases some of what makes Berg a promising director, especially in regards to high octane action.
2. “Lone Survivor”
Perhaps the film that speaks the most to Berg’s progression as a director, “Lone Survivor” is one of the best war films depicting America’s struggles in Iraq or Afghanistan. The film depicts the struggles of U.S. soldiers during Operation Red Wings, which led to the deaths of 19 American soldiers. The film features excellent performances from its four main characters, including Mark Wahlberg, Ben Foster, Taylor Kitsch and Emile Hirsch. “Lone Survivor” beats its patriotic chest at times, but also shows positive depictions of Arabic men and women. The film was nominated for a pair of Oscars for Sound Editing and Sound Mixing, which it ultimately lost to “Gravity.” “Lone Survivor” is vastly superior to the next year’s “American Sniper,” and should be remembered as one of the best films depicting American soldiers in the Middle East for years to come.
3. “The Kingdom”
One of Berg’s early big budget films, “The Kingdom” stars Jaime Foxx, Jennifer Garner and Chris Cooper as U.S. government agents sent to investigate a dual bombing. “The Kingdom” features some of the most complex action sequences in a film based in the Middle East, which ultimately led the film to become a hit. However, there’s a fair amount of criticism levied at “The Kingdom.” The film features caricature villains that border on Islamophobic. It is a problematic aspect of the film, but far from unusual for Hollywood films in the post-9/11 landscape. If nothing else, “The Kingdom” was an important stepping stone for Berg on his way to make stronger action-driven films.