Iain Glen and Emily Hampshire lead an all-star ensemble in Amazon Prime Video’s upcoming supernatural thriller The Rig.
Set on the fictional Kinloch Bravo, this six-part series follows an oil rig crew battling for survival when a mysterious fog cuts off all communication from the shore and leaves them stranded in the North Sea. With no way back to the mainland and supplies dropping, the crew are pushed to their limit and must confront a force beyond their imagination.
Working in the oil industry is no easy gig, as we see with the Kinloch Bravo crew of 50. These rigs are pressure cookers in every sense of the phrase; it’s dangerous work; surrounded by the same faces every day, interaction unavoidable; tension builds towards an inevitable snap. Within its opening minutes, The Rig proves to have a fairly strong understanding of this and is successful in establishing the tone of the show straight away before delving into an unsettling ambience.
We are also introduced to the Kinloch Bravo team for the first time as a hierarchical structure between key characters creates conflict. On one side of the scale, there’s cool-headed boss Magnus (Glen), communications operator Fulmer (Martin Compston), and company representative Rose (Hampshire), all pulling the strings behind the operation. On the other end stands Hutton (Owen Teale), Baz (Calvin Demba), Alwyn (Mark Bonnar), and Leck (Emun Elliott) doing the – less than desirable – heavy lifting.
Camaraderie between colleagues is rare, each adopting every man for themselves mentality to their demanding job. Already, they are strained and at one another’s throats. There is bitterness over shift patterns, working conditions, and who gets the next seat on the helicopter home. In his bid to control the situation, Magnus’ insistence that “we are one crew” is akin to hearing an old boss refer to your colleagues as a family – that’s usually your cue to scurry off in the opposite direction.
However, there are far bigger concerns at play as the rig is cloaked in thick fog, and welcomes a dark force along with it. The Rig is not unlike John Carpenter’s The Thing, sharing similar elements of suspense and paranoia with the 1982 sci-fi-horror – as well as Invasion of the Body Snatchers, The Mist, and The Faculty, a 1998 (indirect) homage to The Thing. Leadership is brought into question. Fierce disputes are fuelled by an impulsive Hutton, escalating beyond control. Yet where The Thing spreads terror through deceit, The Rig veers onto a slightly different course and invokes dread by emboldening the threat across a global scale.
There are moments where these first three episodes are comparable to an extended Doctor Who special. Instead of a trench coat-clad David Tennant sprinting down corridors to find his monster-of-the-week, it’s Martin Compston in orange coveralls, scaling platforms and firing flare guns – that isn’t a negative in the slightest, to be clear. Compston eagerly dives into the stunt work without hesitation, going the distance for his role as the heat quite literally turns up.
Very few green screens are used in the series, particularly where the actors are concerned. For the most part, the actual rig itself is practical, and episodes benefit from this immensely. Set designs and apt props convey an authentic environment. We get a true feel for the grungy and perilous conditions in which the Kinloch Bravo group are made to live and work in, leading to a greater understanding of their desperate desire to return to the mainland. This is a claustrophobic nightmare. With the confined space igniting an already short fuse amongst the crew, the treacherous waves and open ocean does little to soothe their distress.
The first half of the series does well in maintaining a steady pace and leads with curiosity. The thriller relies on its characters to drive the plot forward, so when personal dilemmas are thrown into the mix, another layer of torment unveils itself. Group dynamics are complicated enough on the rig without the addition of romantic woes and secret pasts; but the fundamentals of these subplots certainly boost hostility and serve as a great device in testing the crew’s endurance.
As with any good show, there comes a weakness. One minor flaw accompanies the cryptic motive behind this supernatural influence; its depiction is more resemblant to Hot Fuzz’s Neighbourhood Watch Alliance than anything John Carpenter conjured up – all that’s missing is a chorus of “the greater good”. In the grand scheme, it’s easy to overlook what are frankly irrelevant faults. The progression of the series is determined, and it leaves the fate of Kinloch Bravo, and the whole world, in the hands of a troubled crew.
North-east Scotland viewers will delight in the series; there’s nothing like seeing your hometown represented on the silver screen. Granted, we are more than a thousand miles off the coast of Aberdeen in this case, but Scots from all regions will carry a great sense of pride watching the first Amazon Prime Video series to have been shot entirely in Scotland.
Despite being filmed in Edinburgh, the thriller embraces its Aberdonian roots. Whether we’re stranded in the middle of the North Sea, or roaming the centre of the Oil and Gas Capital of Europe itself, you can count on an abundance of gulls to make you feel right at home – The Rig cashes in on their use of the chip-stealers straight away, and boy does it catch you off-guard.
In the span of three episodes, The Rig threads an intricate mystery together and showcases commendable talent from its stars. Glen confronts the impossible challenge of uniting the Kinloch Bravo crew, whilst Teale is as masterfully antagonistic as he is compassionate about his colleagues. And Compston gives a compelling performance as Fulmer’s attempts to keep his professional responsibilities separate from his personal life grow increasingly futile. His every move scrutinised by a divided – and agitated – group awaiting his downfall.
The Rig begins on a high. Fantastic performances are driven by a dedicated cast; claustrophobia, conflict, and suspense are established immediately and intensify once supernatural elements come into play. An indulging mystery is underway as the show works towards a promising conclusion; audiences will struggle to pull their attention from the screen with this six-part series.
The Rig premieres on Amazon Prime Video on January 6, 2023.
Watch the trailer below: