John A.Andersen (director)
Elysian Cinema Group (studio)
104 minutes (length)
July 25, 2022 (published)
The film begins with a brief prologue in which oil rig representative William Lie (Bjorn Floberg) talks to us (well, the camera actually) explaining that in 1969 the Norwegian government announced the discovery of one of the largest oilfields in the world in the North Sea which triggered the launch of a long period of offshore drilling. The story picks up fifty years later and it’s a completely different picture, namely when a massive fissure opens up on the ocean floor – causing a platform (one of many) to collapse. ‘others…). When Lie, who oversees offshore operations headquarters Saga Stavanger, calls scientist/submarine expert Sofia (Kristine Kujath Thorp) and her colleague Arthur (Rolf Kristian Larsen) into his office, he doesn’t give much information, except an “accident” happened before they got them to sign non-disclosure agreements, which the two signed. Bad move because when the terrible truth emerges, Sofia and Arthur are contractually bound to keep the “stumm”.
Sofia knows all too well how to maneuver robotic underwater cameras and when the team tries to determine why said oil rig sank at an unusual speed, she is initially the only one skeptical enough to wonder if the rig oil tanker sank due to submarine subsidence. His argument is that no amount of subsidence could have caused the oil rig to collapse and sink so quickly. Upon closer inspection, the truth seems far more ominous: a massive crack several miles long is discovered, and the team knows a race against time is on to prevent other rigs (and countless oil rig workers) of a similar fate – in particular the Gullfaks A oil rig located more than 200 kilometers off the west coast of Norway. To oversee the evacuation and such, a team of experts is sent to Gullfaks by helicopter, including oil rig worker Stian (Henrik Bjelland) who happens to be Sofia’s partner and the father of their grandson. Odin (Nils Elias Olsen). At first, the evacuation seems to be going according to plan, but we wouldn’t have an eco-disaster film in our hands if all went well. They don’t and before you can shout RATE! (that’s Norwegian for DANGER!) one of the platform’s steel support legs begins to collapse. While the rescue team manages to get most of the workers aboard the helicopter before the rig sinks or explodes, it is Stian who is still in the bowels of the rig in working on some valves as water gushed from above… Minutes later he was trapped and buried alive under the North Sea in what was once the Gullfaks oil rig.
When the base gets the news that the men have been rescued except for Stian, a heartbroken Sofia refuses to accept that he is dead and demands that another rescue mission be sent. However, Lie refuses to do so because he “must prioritize” and he can no longer put lives in danger… Stubborn and desperate, Sofia, along with Stian’s brother, Arthur, embarks on a secret mission after discovering with using a robotic camera that Stian is still alive. Only Saga Stavanger’s kind-hearted colleagues Ronny (Anders Baasmo) and Berit (Ane Skumsvoll) know about Sofia and Arthur’s daring plan and tend to little Odin while Sofia attempts the impossible. After initial obstacles, which make it increasingly difficult to free the badly injured Stian from his underwater trap, Sofia pulls off a near-miracle by freeing Stian with the help of a humble key. As she calls the Saga Stavanger team and asks for a rescue helicopter, they are informed that in the meantime, Lie has arranged to burn all the oil in the sea in order to avoid a much bigger disaster, at know the sinking off the west coast of Norway. as well as the coasts of Denmark, the Netherlands, Germany, Belgium and the east coast of the UK! Faced with an impossible dilemma, Lie decides not to send a rescue team, seeing that helicopters from Stavanger have begun dropping firebombs into the North Sea which will soon engulf the remains of the Gullfags platform on which stand Sofia, Stian and Arthur. . In a last desperate attempt, they decide to board the sub that Sofia and Arthur used to get to the half-sunk platform. In doing so, they hope to stay underwater and avoid the flames above, but when an unforeseen technical glitch prevents the underwater capsule from plunging into the sea, one of the three passengers must make the ultimate sacrifice if the two remaining want to live…
It’s a tense and engrossing subject matter, all the more relevant as the shifting ocean baselines due to excessive oil drilling are a constant danger and so this movie isn’t just a tense action thriller. with impressive special effects (the scenes in which the various oil rigs sink into the sea or burst into flames are scary), but should serve as a wake-up call as to what happens when corporate greed has too much of a hand white. The performances are compelling and made all the more realistic as none of the actors (who incidentally look like ordinary people and act like ordinary people) are known outside of Scandinavia. We even get a sort of epilogue (delivered once again by William Lie) contemplating the events.
Don’t be put off by the Norwegian dialogue (the film has English subtitles) – THE BURNING SEA is well worth watching and thought-provoking too!