Stars: Kristine Kujath Thorp, Rolf Kristian Larsen, Anders Baasmo, Bjørn Floberg, Anneke von der Lippe, Ane Skumsvoll, Cengiz Al, Nils Elias Olsen | Written by Harald Rosenløw-Eeg Lars Gudmestad | Directed by John Andreas Andersen
The Burning Sea is a Norwegian film with an interesting, albeit depressing conceit…
In 1969, the Norwegian government announces their discovery of one of the world’s largest oil fields in the neighbouring North Sea, launching a prosperous period of offshore drilling. Fifty years later, the environmental consequences begin to manifest – a crack has opened on the ocean floor, causing a rig to collapse. A team of researchers, including submarine operator Sofia (Kristine Kujath Thorp), rushes in to search for the missing and assess the cause of the damage. But what they discover is that this is just the start of a possible apocalyptic catastrophe. As rigs are evacuated, Sofia’s partner Stian (Henrik Bjelland) becomes trapped in the depths of the sea, leaving Sofia to come to his rescue.
We are introduced to a couple and their lovely life by the sea. They have good jobs, nice friends, and BBQs on the beach. Life is good. Sofia likes her boyfriend but doesn’t want to go to the trouble of committing to him. He works on an oil rig, and she is someone whose job is to deal with “sensitive underwater situations”. That comes in handy, later.
The Burning Sea is effectively a disaster movie, where drilling for oil feels like a Lovecraftian protagonist reading the Necronomicon or some greedy dwarves digging too deeply and finding a Balrog.
As our two young heroes are nursing hangovers, after a BBQ, beers and running, naked into the ocean, we get a call that there has been an accident. The Balrog has been unearthed. The non-disclosure agreement is signed. Our heroes are on the helicopter. The executive they speak to is called William Lie. Which doesn’t bode well.
Drilling has opened a hole in the planet, and people are stuck below.
Can Sofia overcome disaster, AND the awful executives to save the guy she can’t quite bring herself to move in with? It sounds like I am being sarcastic, as I type this. But the film is actually very good.
The film is well made, well-lit and well-acted. The plot is interesting, and it doesn’t attempt anything it shouldn’t, given the budget. I would go as far as to say, some of the visual effects are spectacular (rather than “embarrassing”, often the cases with little films that overreach themselves).
The Burning Sea also reminds me of the Russian, anti-imperial horror Superdeep. People are going down, somewhere unnatural, somewhere they have no place being. Albeit, Superdeep also features bonkers Carpenter-esque body horror. The film asked the question. Is Norway an “Oil Country” and concludes that, no, it is an ocean country. Which makes sense. It also had me asking the question. In millions of years’ time, will there be some race, pumping the ancient, pressurised remains of humans to fuel their cars? What would be the tragedy that befalls us? And will it be of our own making?
Produced by the Norwegian team who made The Quake and The Wave, The Burning Sea is released digitally on May 30th.
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