Norway relies on its oil drilling industry in the North Sea and has seen a huge boom in in national finances as a result. But there have been reservations: the damage to the environment has been an undoubted issue it still has not quite got to grips with, and the drilling has been so relentless that there are fears the damage could only take a turn for the worse. Sofia (Kristine Kujath Thorp) has been working on an undersea robot which could help in research, but one morning she is called away from her boyfriend Stian (Henrik Bjelland) and made to sign the official secrets act before going any further. Her robot could come in very handy in working out what happened to an oil rig that suddenly sank out to sea...
Very much in the same vein as the same team's previous ecological disasters such as The Wave, they could be accused of ploughing the same furrow for a film too far with The Burning Sea, yet somehow they managed to be fairly engrossing despite the feeling we had seen it all before. The subgenre of Norwegian disaster flicks was not a huge one, but all credit to these guys for making it a thing, even if on this evidence they were struggling to open it out from some very basic parameters. What was pleasing was to see Sofia on equal status with the men she works with, indeed, she became quite the problem solver when the disaster inevitably became personal, even if, perhaps significantly, she cannot rescue everyone she wants to when push comes to shove.
This is called The Burning Sea because of the solution found in the final act, a lesser of two evils type affair where the oil corporation has to bite the bullet and set fire to the oil fields before a rift in the sea floor causes an even greater catastrophe. Mind you, this one is bad enough as oil rigs slip beneath the waves in a matter of minutes and a mass evacuation of the staff is in order. The film had mixed feelings about the oil industry: the heroine is noticeably not a member of their club, and there's a business guru (Bjorn Floberg) who seems like the villain as he tries to contain the disaster with casualties a regrettable but inevitable result of these kinds of operations. All very well until Stian becomes the latest potential victim, whereupon Sofia grabs her robot and sets off on a rescue mission without permission.
This was very well-staged, almost methodical in going through every stage as the corporate folks watch their worst fears be confirmed and the more personal elements, where Sofia is deciding to be more serious about Stian and his young son acts as a focus for any heartstring-tugging. There was a lot of love for the hardware, so lots of characters looking anxiously at screens and taking trips on helicopters like they were going out of fashion, even the oil rigs were treated with sympathy as after all these were people's livelihoods. Yet as this arrived when the question of whether there should be continued drilling at all in the North Sea, and aside from the invented calamity it warns us against if we do not stop, otherwise it did come across as a little out of step with reality, never mind current events. With impressive special effects for its non-Hollywood budget, it was familiar enough with the tropes of the disaster genre to satisfy the genre's addicts while able to bring in the newcomers for whom this may not be quite as recognisable. Music by Johannes Ringen and Johan Soderqvist.