The Burning Sea

In DVD/Blu-ray by Alex Moss Editor

While Hollywood and specifically the Master of Disaster Roland Emmerich might feel they have cornered the market on big budget disaster films Norway has been quietly creating disaster films that are much more grounded in reality. The Wave and The Quake were their first two forays into all things “who will survive” but without the bombast of an Emmerich excursion. Think destruction without plantery, or White House, obliteration.

The Burning Sea is no exception to the aforementioned. Sofia (Kristine Kujath Thorp) is a deep-sea drone operator who is thinking of moving in with her boyfriend Stian (Henrik Bjelland) and his son Odin (Nils Elias Olsen). Dispatched to investigate a sunken oil rig in the North Sea, Sofia soon learns that a potentially catastrophic disaster is about to unfold and before long she and Stian find themselves stuck in the middle of it all.

What this spate of Norwegian disaster films do so well is stick to a formula without ever becoming cliche. There is no loveable dog in The Burning Sea who you know is going to survive. There is no Dwayne Johnson standing by to lift a building off a small child. Instead you get grounded characters in terrifying situations.

The special effects are solid without being spectacular but it is to the filmmakers’ credit that they never make them the centrepiece of the entire event. Instead, when the proverbial really hits the fan they re-focus attentions onto the individuals in peril, and it is here that The Burning Sea really works.

As such the final third of The Burning Sea is less disaster film in the traditional sense and more survival thriller. Yes, from time to time you get spectacular shots but they are more to give you a second to catch your breath before plummeting you into another moment of sinking terror as the characters face another moment of raw panic.

Like many Hollywood films of this ilk, and this most closely resembles Peter Berg’s Deepwater Horizon, there are corporate overlords making all the wrong decisions. But what is refreshing here is, unlike a Hollywood version, they are never boo-hiss villains, and at times even manage to do the right thing, albeit perhaps a little too late.

Rarely anything new but The Burning Sea is a gripping thrill ride of a disaster film that locks you in early and doesn’t let you go until its smouldering end.