The Burning Sea review – Norwegian oil-spill thriller aims to avert disaster

Mildly eco-catastrophising offering, in which pasty boiler-suited characters try to cope with liquid disaster

The Norwegian production company that made contemporary disaster films The Wave, from 2015 and, three years later, The Quake, is back with another commercial blend of visual effects, melodrama and mildly didactic but not-too-preachy eco-catastrophising. This time it’s a story about oil rigs going wrong in the North Sea and creating a massive spill – but more importantly, for the purposes of the drama, endangering the life of scientist-protagonist Sofia’s boyfriend Stian (Henrik Bjelland), and thus threatening to leave a little boy named Odin (Nils Elias Olsen) fatherless. The poor kid spends most of the film sitting around a waiting room being starred at furtively by worried adults, seemingly more anxious about having to deal with telling him his dad is dead than with the fact that they’re causing a massive environmental disaster that will affect millions. But I suppose you have to find some way to make the drama palpable to viewers.

Moreover, like nearly everyone in the film, Sofia (Kristine Kujath Thorp) works for the oil industry, so there’s no fundamental questioning of this massive, powerful enterprise that has ballooned Norway’s GDP over the last 50 years or so. There are only good oil-industry employees here, and only slightly less scrupulous oil-industry executives, such as the bosses who haven’t grasped that the relentless drilling has made the seabed fundamentally unstable. This means robotics engineer Sofia must use her own creations to save Stian’s life when he gets trapped in an air pocket on a collapsed platform. Her buddy Arthur (Rolf Kristian Larsen) helps her out, and it’s kind of delightful that nobody looks like the Rock or any other Hollywood movie star here. They’re all just average nerds, likable if flawed, with pasty complexions and boiler-suits, trying to survive and save their loved ones.

A regular beat of tension and release plays out as people get saved only to face new dangers, following the template of disaster films since the beginning of cinema, but it’s done well here. The visual effects are impressive, especially the water, which is so notoriously hard to animate.

• The Burning Sea is available on 30 May on digital platforms.

Contributor

Leslie Felperin

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Deepwater Horizon review – Mark Wahlberg v BP in angry disaster movie
The actor is a believable everyman engineer in a harrowing, courageous account of the 2010 oil rig tragedy – and the corporate greed that caused it

Benjamin Lee

14, Sep, 2016 @12:30 AM

Article image
The 'well from hell' – my fight with BP to film Deepwater Horizon
The 2010 explosion in the Gulf of Mexico triggered an environmental catastrophe and resulted in unbelievable human heroism – so it was a natural fit for Hollywood. But what do you do when your film leads you into conflict with a corporate oil giant? The film’s director, Peter Berg, explains

Peter Berg

04, Oct, 2016 @3:07 PM

Article image
BP faces further $2.5bn charge over Deepwater Horizon spill
Oil company has paid out more than $60bn in liabilities over environmental disaster that still threatens wildlife and ecology around Gulf of Mexico

Terry Macalister

14, Jul, 2016 @5:54 PM

Article image
BP to pay $175m to investors over Deepwater Horizon spill
Settlement compensates investors who claimed BP publicly underplayed amount of oil flowing from Macondo well into Gulf of Mexico

Rob Davies

03, Jun, 2016 @10:14 AM

Article image
BP sells $15bn in assets in preparation for legal battle over Macondo spill
But oil firm's shares rally as third quarter earnings exceed expectations and plans are announced to triple drilling by 2014

Terry Macalister

25, Oct, 2011 @1:35 PM

Article image
Gas build-up threatens North Sea oil rig
Workers evacuated as Norwegian engineers pump cement into offshore well to prevent explosion as Deepwater crisis highlights environmental dangers of drilling

Terry Macalister

27, May, 2010 @4:15 PM

Article image
BP rebuked over North Sea oil leak
Norway's oil and gas safety authority blames poor maintenance and serious breaches of regulations for Ula incident

Fiona Harvey, environment correspondent

29, Apr, 2013 @5:37 PM

Article image
Deepwater oil spill: BP steps up PR effort to insist all is well in the Gulf
Oil giant says area is making a rapid recovery but evidence mounts that wildlife is still struggling to rebound, five years after Deepwater Horizon spill

Peter Moskowitz in New Orleans

31, Mar, 2015 @11:48 AM

Article image
Niger delta oil spill clean-up launched – but could take quarter of a century
UN hopes $1bn operation will boost employment and drive development among Ogoniland communities devastated by contamination from spills

John Vidal

01, Jun, 2016 @11:01 PM

Article image
Why California’s enormous oil spill won’t be its last
The state’s ageing oil infrastructure means more disasters are likely as companies move away from fossil fuels

Katharine Gammon in Los Angeles

09, Oct, 2021 @10:00 AM