Thursday, February 24, 2022

The Burning Sea, Another Norwegian Disaster

If working on oil platforms were safe and easy, it wouldn’t pay so well. However, you can’t blame the oil workers for not anticipating a disaster of this scale. That was the job of the screenwriters. Fortunately, Eelume Offshore Robotics really exists to serve the industry’s safety needs. In this case, a robotic engineer scrambles to save her lover from a deep watery grave in John Andreas Andersen’s The Burning Sea, which releases tomorrow in theaters and on-demand.

In the pseudo-documentary prologue, petroleum exec William Lie explains how dangerous Norway’s North Sea drilling platforms were when he started with the company in the 1970s. (The actor, Bjorn Floberg, looks a lot like Roger Corman, so you can pretend its really him, to make the movie even more fun.) We then fast-forward to contemporary times. The technology has been upgraded several times over, but it is still dangerous out there, especially when seismic shifts are detected in the oil fields.

Sofia is really starting to get serious about Stian, an admirably engaged single-father, who works two weeks on and two weeks off in the North Sea oil fields. Of course, he is on-duty when disaster strikes. Lie and the energy ministry agree to completely shut down all North Sea wells, but there is one platform experiencing serious technical difficulties. Naturally, Stian is the one who mans-up to fix it, but he ultimately gets trapped in the lower submersed service deck. To save him, Sophie goes rogues, taking her non-threatening sidekick Arthur and their serpentine robot with her.

Disaster movies are becoming a thing in Norway, thanks to the team behind
Burning Sea. Andersen previously helmed The Quake and screenwriter Harald Rosenlow-Eeg co-wrote The Wave and its aforementioned sequel. This is a fresh slate of characters, but the peril to Norway is just as severe, thanks a perfect storm of natural catastrophes and man-made complications.

The platform setting and the Eelume robotics are all very cool and cinematic. Unfortunately, the characterization is just as formulaic as that of the
Wavequake duology, but they are fleshed out less robustly. There is also an attempt to tack on a stronger environmental message, but it usually detracts from the stuff that works.

Frankly. Floberg is a standout as tough old Lie. He is not a bad guy—he just has to make some tough decisions (which he does). Rolf Kristian Larsen is also surprisingly compelling as poor Arthur, whereas Kristine Kujath Thorp and Henrik Bjelland are not particularly memorable as Sofia and Stian.

Burning Sea
is not The Towering Inferno, but if you enjoyed the previous Norwegian disaster films, you should find this one to be of roughly comparable quality. It also inadvertently makes a good case for opening more land here in the U.S. for drilling, so there is less need for such precariously isolated platforms. Earning a mild recommendation for its robotics and cataclysmic shake-ups, The Burning Sea releases tomorrow (2/25) on VOD.