Shot in Calgary, Alberta and London, England, the film is unusual for actually being set in Calgary, prompting Eric Volmers to write in the Calgary Herald that, while filming in the city is hardly unique, it's rare for a high-profile project to feature Calgary as Calgary.
Sam Wollaston writing in The Guardian complements the character development and interaction that is, going on all over the place, and credits Whitford and Warren as the stars of Burn Up, before going on to say Penry-Jones is, lively in the lead. He claims the film is an improvement on recent docudramas in that, it has a proper script and that while, the across-the-green-line romance is a little embarrassing, the whole thing skips along, and, at times it thrills, which is no bad thing in a thriller, but it, is issue-led, rather than story-led, and overall it feels, a bit crude, as opposed to refined. Gareth McLean writing in the same publication said that, despite the occasional flashy moment, high-octane drama this is not, criticising the film for, copious amounts of tiresome expositional dialogue and a leaden plot, before concluding, why not treat yourself and rent Syriana instead?
Tim Teeman writing in The Times calls the film, a consciousness-raising thriller, that, is trying desperately to do that BBC thing of being sexy and responsible. He states that, the arguments about oil production and the environment felt clunky and little more than speechifying, that the film was, in danger of forgetting that drama should be drama, not a lecture, and that characters should be characters, not ciphers, but, despite the didactic politicking, the pace is unrelenting and the baddies at least are colourful and engaging. He complimented Whitford who, villainously devoured every scene, for his, needling chemistry with the, brilliant, Warren, and concluded that, Whitford and Campbell together, him snarling, her looking all impish and button-nosed, had me almost pathetically excited: The West Wing and Party of Five united on screen is pretty near Teeman TV Heaven. David Chater writing in the same publication describes the film as, highly watchable, thanks to, a fast-paced, intelligent script and some fine acting, although the, characters tend to come with labels, and the elements of thriller are there for excitement rather than credibility, he concludes, it is still an exciting ride in an eco-friendly racer, and, it’s like Doctor Who for grown-ups.
A.A. Gill of The Times on the other hand called it a bloated, wasteful, gaseously hypocritical beached whale of a miniseries, adding that watching it was a bit like being manacled to the table at a Notting Hill dinner party, or being lectured by a vegan vitamin salesman.
In testimony before the US Senate in Washington, Sir Richard Langham, Tom's former geology professor, testifies on the dangers of global warming, but he is discredited by a pro-oil senator using muck racked up by devious oil lobbyist James "Mack" Mackintosh. Tom confronts Mack, his longtime friend, about the tactics. Mack disclaims personal responsibility for spreading the story, but he is clearly committed to serving his employers. Back in London, Tom wins his court case but then sees Mika set fire to herself on the court steps.
Tom and Holly attend Mika’s funeral in Alberta, where Sir Richard sends them into the wilderness to see the truth for themselves. Holly pokes a hole in the ice covering a swamp and is able to ignite the methane gas waiting to be released. Later, while overnighting in an isolated shack on the tundra, Tom and Holly become intimate.
Meanwhile, British Prime-Ministerial Aide Philip Crowley offers unofficial government assistance to the Green Congress as they prepare for a climate change conference in Calgary.
Masud returns to London and makes contact with Sir Mark, who has spoken with Masud before and agrees to meet to accept some confidential geology data. Sir Mark is clearly conflicted over what to do with the data.
Tom and Holly discuss pulling out of Athabasca, which has the most polluting oil of Arrow's many interests, and investing that money in renewables. Phillip confronts Holly with his knowledge that the desert massacre was done by mercenaries for the oil industry and not terrorists. But before she can talk to Tom, Tom finds Mack at her overturned apartment, where Mack reveals that Holly orchestrated Mika's protest at the party. Phillip stops Holly from returning to her apartment, instructing her to lay low. Tom wanders off to visit Sir Mark. Sir Mark hears a noise and goes outside, only to be struck dead in a hit-and-run. Tom and Masud, approaching from different directions, are witnesses. Tom runs to help, and Masud flees.
At a meeting in the Calgary Tower Mack warns McConnell of the chaos that will be unleashed if Masud’s data is published. The hard-line Robert Cooper is appointed as the new US delegate and goes back on the agreements of his predecessor. The Chinese delegate makes approaches to McConnell and the Green Congress so Crowley brokers a deal with them to sign Kyoto II. Dernay tries to bluff Mack and he warns her off but he is too late and she is killed. Mack confronts his boss who threatens to go after McConnell next to get the data. Cooper agrees a sideline treaty with the Chinese and walks out without signing Kyoto II. Mack confronts McConnell on the roof and after getting the data from him, he smuggles it past his boss’s men and hands it over to Crowley for publication.