Breathlessly shot and emotionally charged, The Burning Sea proves that a small-scale disaster movie offers more than its big-budget Hollywood counterparts.
From its stark opening montage of oil-polluted waters, The Burning Sea wastes no time in making it clear that this is a story about a disaster created by humans. While not based on a true story like the similarly themed Deepwater Horizon, The Burning Sea tells the harrowing tale of a soon-to-collapse oil rig and the race against time to shut down the oil well to avoid a natural disaster.
When it comes to disaster movies, Hollywood has long since dealt with cliches, massive spectacle, and lumpy scripts that move the protagonist from one CGI-riddled set piece to the next. The scale must be big, and the stakes must be even more significant. As difficult as it is to believe, the genre started grounded in realism with classics like the Airport franchise, Earthquake, The Towering Inferno, and The Poseidon Adventure, to name but a few. These worked so well because the stories felt like they could happen in real life. However, as the decades rolled on and computer technology advanced, we’ve somehow ended up with the likes of Geostorm and Moonfall, movies with premises that would have made beautiful spoofs.
Unlike just about every big-budget American disaster movie, the scope here is small and personal, and as such, the stakes feel higher as the story has allowed us to get to know the characters. Much like the producer’s previous films, The Wave and Quake, The Burning Sea is an affectionate love letter to the classic disaster films of yesterday while making a startling comment on today’s environmental problems.
From the everyman protagonist Stian (Henrik Bjelland), who is forced to wade through the collapsing oil rig, to the entirely plausible levels of governmental bureaucracy, The Burning Sea is as much a cautionary tale as it is a disaster movie.
The Burning Sea is available on Digital from May 30.