Film Review – The Burning Sea (2021)

No stranger to a disaster film, having previously directed 2018’s The Quake, John Andreas Anderson has returned to the put the world in danger once again. This time catastrophe threatens when a Norwegian oil rig collapses in the North Sea setting off a chain reaction that could cause up to thirty more rigs to collapse which will in turn cause the biggest oil spill in history. Back on land, corporate managers face a race against time to evacuate the oil rig workers and work out how to stop further rigs collapsing all whilst trying to keep the true extent of the disaster under wraps and minimise the damage to their reputations.

Early on in the film we meet robotics engineers Sofia and Arthur who immediately engage in work banter that shows that they are close friends as well as colleagues. They are working on an underwater robot camera, and it is not too hard to guess that this will become an integral part of what follows. Sofia is in a relationship with oil rig worker Stian and when it comes to light that Stian has been left behind trapped in one of the rigs, Sofia and Arthur rush to the rescue.

In the disaster film genre, audiences have become comfortably accustomed to witnessing the destruction of capital cities and famous landmarks in massive CGI spectacles. In this way it can sometimes become easy to forget that these films work best when we also have characters to root for and care about. The Burning Sea works well in this regard, as although the impending disaster has the potential to affect thousands of people, the film concentrates on a small core group of characters who feel real, relatable and are easy to invest in. Simultaneously, The Burning Sea doesn’t forget to provide moments of CGI awe which hold up well when compared to disaster blockbusters with ten times the budget.

Whilst The Burning Sea paints by the numbers in a lot of ways, this in no ways detracts from the enjoyment. The idea that drilling in the ocean has caused a life threatening disaster that those who caused it now want to be hushed up smacks of irony and throughout the film there are questions raised and discussions to be had. Not only is there a strong theme of environmentalism in The Burning Sea, there is also the issue of corporate greed and ethicalism. The Burning Sea is not just a smash, crash and destroy film with an improbable premise, it is a true to life issue with true to life consequences. Recently, Deepwater Horizon told the real life story of the Deepwater Horizon explosion and oil spill and whilst The Burning Sea is fictional, it is better than Deepwater Horizon in that it forgoes the difficulties in recounting a real life tragedy that involves bereaved families.

The Burning Sea was so tense at times that you may find yourself gasping aloud and the intensity builds to a crescendo that culminates in an action-packed third act. The film may not live up to the bigger and bolder antics of its American cousins, but somehow it is all the better for it.

★★★1/2


Action, Drama | Norway, 2021 | 15 | Digital | 30th May 2022 (UK) | Elysian Film | Dir.John Andreas Andersen | Kristine Kujath Thorp, Rolf Kristian Larsen, Anders Baasmo, Bjørn Floberg, Anneke von der Lippe