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Burn Up - Review

Rupert Penry-Jones in Spooks

Review by Lizzie Guilfoyle

IndieLondon Rating: 3 out of 5

PRE AIRING blurb described it as a must-see drama, a tense two-part thriller, but the reality of Simon Beaufoy’s Burn Up was rather less inspiring.

A modern day drama tackling the emotive issue of global warming, Burn Up sees young family man Tom McConnell (Spooks‘ Rupert Penry-Jones) promoted to chairman of Arrow, an oil firm of some considerable repute.

However, it isn’t long before cracks begin to appear and McConnell is forced to confront his predecessor’s possible involvement in the deaths of a group of geologists in the Saudi desert. And if that isn’t enough, the environmentalists are demanding the oil industry takes a responsible stance on global warming. Add a Kyoto 2 summit and you do indeed have the ingredients for a tense thriller.

Sadly, Burn Up fails to deliver. Penry-Jones is suitably dashing as the angst-ridden executive who perceives the situation from perspectives other than his own and is deeply affected by the staged suicide of a young woman environmentalist – an unpleasant scene in which the young woman douses herself with petrol before… but you know the rest, don’t you?

Also predictable is his involvement with ‘green’ colleague Holly (Neve Campbell) – obvious from the moment the two first set eyes on each other. And it does, of course, lead the way for the obligatory sex scene which, unlike so many these days, is tastefully executed.

And although Bradley Whitford (The West Wing) and Marc Warren (Hustle) turn in fine performances as a ruthless oil industry lobbyist and an unctuous British government official, it’s not enough to set the screen alight. In fact, despite its potential, Burn Up is more of a damp squib.

What is does do, however, is expose the unscrupulous nature of the oil industry as well as man’s reluctance to forgo’ some of 21st century life’s luxuries, such as cheap flights and walk-in-refrigerators. A case of art imitating life, I suspect. And not surprisingly perhaps, it’s Americans who are portrayed as the real ‘baddies’!

In spite of its many flaws and missed opportunities, Burn Up deserves to be watched – just the once. Definitely no more. So save your pennies and give the DVD a wide berth.

Burn Up aired on BBC2 in July 2008. It is released on DVD on July 28, 2008