The Rig review: Iain Glen and Martin Compston lead chilling oil rig thriller
The first Prime Video original filmed in Scotland has struck (black) gold
Launching on Prime Video on 6 January, The Rig sees Vigil star Martin Compston returning to the waves for a gripping new year treat.
Days away from shore leave and stranded off the coast of Scotland, workers on the Kinloch Bravo drilling platform are shrouded in fog. With communications cut off, dwindling morale and a powder keg claustrophobia rekindling resentment — an endgame is imminent.
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Drawing inspiration from the horror work of John Carpenter, James Cameron and Ridley Scott – this oil rig drama rests on the shoulders on an exceptional ensemble cast. Magnus (Iain Glen) is the leader of this motley crew, who finds himself under pressure from the off, when Baz (Calvin Demba) a young team member, plummets from a tower ten minutes in.
Watch a trailer for The Rig
Having suffered injuries which would kill most men, Baz recovers swiftly, yet is plagued by visions of rupturing sea beds on the ocean floor. Unsent entities and organic parasites have been disturbed by the incessant excavation and this might just be pay back. With Rose (Emily Hampshire) representing corporate interests onboard in the face of escalating issues, there is no avoiding the similarities to Aliens.
As ash rains down, contaminants start infiltrating other crew members and Magnus begins losing control of the situation – these actors really kick into gear. Hutton (Owen Teale) locks horns with Magnus on numerous occasions, really giving some backbone to their encounters as dangers increase. Alongside these seasoned veterans is Martin Compston (Line of Duty) as Fulmer, who goes from ostracised team member to heroic martyr without missing a beat.
His relationship with Rose represents a conflict of interest for them both, which finds Fulmer mocked by other crew members and accused of favouritism at every turn. This factor arouses unrest in that opening episode while creator David Macpherson is busy unpacking introductions and establishing character dynamics.
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Beyond comparisons to John Carpenter staples The Fog or The Thing, this Prime Video oil rig chiller also finds time to pepper pivotal moments with some environmental sub-text. Talk of renewable energy versus fossil fuels is mixed into the melee, while snippets of dialogue between generations hint at the long-term effects that off-shore drilling has done.
For film audiences who stumble upon The Rig while casually browsing there is much to enjoy here. With Mark Bonnar (Litvinenko) offering up a fine turn within this ensemble alongside the rock-solid Iain Glen, this series is worth it just to see these actors work. With Stuart McQuarrie (Foundation) also on top form as mess hall chef Murchison, who builds tension through the retelling of old seafaring tales – this really has some great pockets of drama.
Elsewhere, there is Abraham Popoola (Andor) as Easter, a towering presence within the team who proves to be a compassionate voice of reason and formidable security measure. If audiences include Rochenda Sandall (Small Axe) alongside him as platform medic Cat – then performance-wise they are spoilt for choice.
As crew members continue to get injured, continually bicker or battle for dominance within their dynamics – small details are slipped in which fill out back story. Magnus is separated and working his way through the loss of a child, Baz was looking forward to attending a family gathering prior to being infected, while Cat and her wife had plans to spend more time together. That is where the pleasure of The Rig can really be found, as David Macpherson gently shapes these characters into creations of depth beyond the drama.
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That being said, The Rig does have a few flaws which undermine those more favourable elements, not least of which would be an ineffectual threat. With cameras flying down pipelines and split-second shots of sea floors being torn asunder, this series becomes all show and no tell in the drama department. Talk of ancient evil dating back eons and some concerned exchanges over a Petrie dish does not get the pulse racing.
What will keep audiences watching has nothing to do with the detailed injuries, impressive production design or adequate Macguffins which The Rig offers up. Instead, it will come down to the combination of pivotal casting choices and tag team ensemble exchanges that inject life into this Aliens homage.
Granted there may be some people who thrive off those John Carpenter moments of silence, as that fog bank gently rolls in and this crew simply look on – but for most it will come down to the sheer quality of talent on screen.
Not only does this make The Rig worth watching, but proves that sometimes actors alone are more impressive than any story they choose to tell.
The Rig is streaming on Prime Video from 6 January.