Directed by John Andreas Andersen and written by Harald Rosenløw-Eeg and Lars Gudmestad, an oil platform dramatically goes down on the Norwegian coast. When researchers try to find out what happened, they realize this is just the start of something even more serious. Starring: Kristine Kujath Thorp, Henrik Bjelland, Rolf Kristian Larsen, Anders Baasmo Christiansen, Bjørn Floberg, Anneke von der Lippe, Christoffer Staib, Ane Skumsvoll, Cengiz Al and Nils Elias Olsen.
One of The Burning Sea’s key strengths is demonstrated immediately with its documentary styled opening, it takes on a convincing and consistent tone of realism. Put into the hands of someone like Michael Bay this could have turned into a typical action fest, but thankfully it doesn’t. What it does is follow a path that both highlights the sincere dangers and consequences of oil rigs, while showing the importance of logic, ingenuity and loyalty. There are ways in which it’s reminiscent of those that have come before it, especially with using a happy, blossoming relationship, plus being a father of a young child, to help enhance the threat and emotion. However, it doesn’t get bogged down in cliché and stereotypes, it has more to add.
The story is paced extremely well, it’s not simply that the disaster starts five minutes in and the entire runtime is spent dealing with it, the plot is gradual and unravelling. That’s not to say that it’s slow, it certainly isn’t, the progression is fast which does a fantastic job of holding your attention. It’s also a nice change of pace to have the typical gender roles reversed and have Sofia (Kristine Kujath Thorp) trying to save her boyfriend. That’s another aspect which is done well here, the characters feel genuine and fleshed out, there’s a big focus on their intelligence, quick thinking and practicality, which helps with the film’s realistic feel.
Visually it enhances that quick pace, John Andreas Andersen’s direction creates a great split between bringing through the larger danger and focusing on the characters. The result is that it has plenty to get your heart-racing but also plenty to draw you in with its characters. Andersen doesn’t rely too heavily on special effects, especially considering the scale of the potential disaster they’re working with, they’re well done and push the suspense further without taking over. The tension is then heightened by the score, which is subtle but intensely effective, bringing that extra punch to key moments. Andersen’s direction, along with the editing work give the film a lot of movement, keeping things striving forward and feeding nicely into the increasing danger.
An interesting aspect of the film is that despite its catalyst being on such a large scale, they manage to create an intimate group of characters. Rather than having an abundancy of background or tertiary characters running around getting themselves killed for effect, it creates a close circle which helps keep a strong focus. Kristine Kujath Thorp, Henrik Bjelland and Rolf Kristian Larsen bring the heart of that circle, and each of them have a great chemistry. While Thorp and Bjelland as Sofia and Stian have a sweet romance, as well as creating an adorable family with his son Odin (Nils Elias Olsen), Thorp and Larsen have a smooth and swiftly operating team dynamic. The rest of the cast all have something to add, Bjørn Floberg in the hot seat having to make the tough decision as things fall apart, Anders Baasmo Christiansen finding safety for himself but struggling with guilt for leaving a man behind. Anneke von der Lippe also creates a great middle-ground between the suits and the workers and helps to bring out more emotion.
The Burning Sea is tense and gripping, it gets your heart racing with just how impressively real it feels. It works so well because instead of choosing stereotypical action and saviours, it goes down a satisfyingly logical route. They aren’t being saved by miraculous coincidences, they have to constantly work the problem in front of them. It holds your attention brilliantly throughout, the effects aren’t too heavy but still drive home the danger and size of the disaster, and all of that is supported by some fantastic editing and score work. If you like action and thrill but are tired of typical Hollywood clichés then The Burning Sea is a perfect alternative.