The Burning Sea

***1/2

Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson

The Burning Sea
"By zeroing in on Sofia and Stian and their immediate friend circle, the disaster element remains taut." | Photo: Fante Film

Ninjababy star Kristine Kujath Thorp’s career continues to be on the rise – and showing plenty of variation – as she has added to it in the past few months with Cannes black comedy satire Sick Of Myself and this Nordic action thriller, which sees director John Andreas Andersen return to disaster movie territory after The Quake.

This time around she Thorp plays Sofia, an operator of drone-like submarines that buzz about in the ocean beneath oil rigs looking for problems. In a spirit running at least as far back as Lieutenant Ellen Ripley, she is about to become the hero, even though she doesn’t know that as she jokes about with her colleague Arthur (Rolf Kristian Larsen) and debates whether it might finally be time to move in with her oil worker boyfriend Stian (Henrik Bjelland) and his young son Odin (Nils Elias Olsen).

Copy picture

A prologue, filmed in a deliberate documentary style, sets the tone for what will follow as William Lie (Bjørn Floberg) outlines a brief history of Norwegian oil, which makes the origins of the business in which people had “zero training” sound a lot like the Wild West. An accident in the present sets the ball rolling as subsidence leads to the double-quick collapse of a rig and an emergency call to Sofia and Arthur to see if they can locate any survivors. What they find is a whole lot more troubling as regards that crack in the ocean floor and, to make matters worse, Stian has – in the true tradition of this sort of film – just returned to his job on the rig, where he too, is about to try to be a hero.

The clock is ticking and Andersen achieves a solid balance between tense boardroom exposition – involving Lie, who is the company’s go-to emergency guy and executives who definitely don’t want to shut down the rigs – and more freneteic action at sea, where Sofia is about to go out on a limb.

That initial documentary set-up, coupled with early handheld camera and a mood and look that is sombre with an emphasis on grey, helps enormously in terms of the special effects, which are considerably more immersive and believably worrying than a lot of CGI disaster stuff that makes it onto the market. The film leans into the relationship between Stian and Sofia a bit much, while oddly shying away from letting them snog, and poor little Odin is used as a sort of sweet moppet reminder of ‘the tragedy that might happen’ throughout.

Despite this, by zeroing in on Sofia and Stian and their immediate friend circle, the disaster element remains taut. One thing that strongly comes across is the way that so many people are connected to the industry even if not specifically working on the rigs – which will certainly strike a chord with anyone from north-east Scotland. If a little more hands-on heroism from Sofia would be welcome , Thorp sells her character’s resilience well, keeping her actions and motives believable even when the bounds of belief are being stretched elsewhere. The environmental underpinning – involving the possibility of an enormous oil slick that evokes memories of Deepwater Horizon – and fire that recalls the Piper Alpha disaster – helps to give the film an immediacy and a sense of being rooted in real-life possibility despite its more formulaic elements.

Reviewed on: 02 Jun 2022
Share this with others on...
The Burning Sea packshot
A submarine operator finds herself on a rescue mission after a disaster in the North Sea.

Festivals:

Streaming on: Various digital platforms


Search database: