From the creators of The Wave and The Quake comes this latest eco-disaster action thriller: THE BURNING SEA (just released on DVD and Blu-ray) is a worrying reminder about the dangers of excessive offshore drilling, in this instance drilling in the North Sea. When a crack opens on the ocean floor it’s not just oilrigs that are collapsing: the damage is so extensive that the shifting ocean baseline endangers the entire west coast of Norway before expanding towards other countries along the North Sea, including the UK. When oil rig worker Stian finds himself trapped under sea following the collapse of a rig it’s down to the fearless action of his partner, submarine expert Sofia, to ensure their little son won’t lose his father…

The film starts with a brief prologue during which oil-rig representative William Lie (Bjorn Floberg) talks to us (well, the camera really) explaining that back in 1969, the Norwegian government announced the discovery of one of the world’s largest oil fields in the North Sea which prompted the launch of a long period of offshore drilling. The story takes up fifty years later and it’s a different picture altogether, namely when a massive crack opens on the ocean floor – causing a rig to collapse (one of many…). When Lie, who oversees offshore operations headquarters Saga Stavanger, calls scientist / submarine expert Sofia (Kristine Kujath Thorp) and co-worker Arthur (Rolf Kristian Larsen) into his office he doesn’t give away much information except that ‘an accident’ has happend before making them sign non-disclosure agreements, which both sign. Bad move because when the terrible truth emerges both Sofia and Arthur are contractually bound to keep ‘stumm’.

Sofia knows only too well how to manoeuvre robotic underwater cameras and when the team try to establish why said oilrig sank unusually fast, she is initially the only one sceptical enough to question whether the oil rig sank due to underwater subsidence. Her argument is that no subsidence could have caused the oil rig to collapse and sank that quickly. Upon further inspection the truth looks far more worrying: a massive crack several kilometres long is discovered and the team know that a race against time is on to prevent other rigs (and countless oil rig workers) from a similar fate – in particular the Gullfaks A oil rig which is located over 200 kilometres off Norway’s west coast. To oversee the evacuation et al, a team of experts are dispatched to Gullfaks via helicopter, among them oil rig worker Stian (Henrik Bjelland) who happens to be Sofia’s partner and father of their little son Odin (Nils Elias Olsen). At first, the evacuation seems to be going according to plan but we wouldn’t have an eco-disaster film on our hands if things went smoothly. They don’t and before you can yell FARE! (that’s Norwegian for DANGER!) one of the rig’s steel support legs starts to collapse. While the rescue team manages to get most of the workers on board the helicopter before the rig sinks or blows up, it’s Stian who’s still in the bowels of the rig working on some valves when water gushes in from above… Minutes later he’s trapped and buried alive underneath the North Sea, in what used to be the Gullfaks oilrig.

When word reaches the base that the men have been rescued with the exception of Stian, a heartbroken Sofia refuses to accept that he is dead and demands another rescue mission to be dispatched. However, Lie refuses to do so as he “needs to prioritise” and he cannot possibly put any more lives in danger… Headstrong and desperate, Sofia, together with Stian’s brother Arthur, sets out on a secret mission after they discover with the aid of a robotic camera that Stian is still alive. Only kind-hearted Saga Stavanger co-workers Ronny (Anders Baasmo) and Berit (Ane Skumsvoll) know about Sofia and Arthur’s daring plan and look after little Odin whilst Sofia attempts the near impossible. After initial hurdles, which make it increasingly difficult to free the badly wounded Stian from his underwater trap, Sofia manages a near miracle by freeing Stian with the aid of a humble wrench. Just as she calls the Saga Stavanger team and asks for a rescue helicopter they are informed that in the meantime, Lie has arranged the burning of all the oil in the sea in order to avoid a much bigger catastrophe, namely the sinking of Norway’s west coast along with the coasts of Denmark, the Netherlands, Germany, Belgium and the East coast of the UK! Confronted with an impossible dilemma, Lie decides not to dispatch a rescue team seeing that by now, Stavanger helicopters have begun to drop fire bombs into the North Sea which will soon engulf the remains of the Gullfags rig on which Sofia, Stian and Arthur are standing. In a last desperate attempt they decide to get into the submarine which Sofia and Arthur used to get to the half-sunk rig. By doing so they hope to remain underwater and avoid the flames above but when an unforeseen technical glitch prevents the submarine capsule from submerging into the sea, one of the three passengers must make the ultimate sacrifice if the remaining two want to live…

This is tense and gripping stuff, made all the more relevant because shifting ocean baselines due to excessive oil drillings are a constant danger and therefore this film is not only a tense action thriller with some impressive special effects (the scenes in which the various oil rigs either sink into the sea or go up in flames are bone-chilling) but should serve as some wake-up call as to what happens when corporate greed is given too much carte blanche. The performances are convincing and made all the more realistic because none of the actors (who btw look like ordinary folk and behave like ordinary folk) are known outside Scandinavia. We even get some sort of epilogue (delivered once again by William Lie) contemplating on the happenings.

Don’t be put off by the Norwegian dialogue (the film has English subtitles) – THE BURNING SEA is well worth a watch and a thought-provoking one at that!