A palpable sense of menace infuses this slow-burning Norwegian thriller, which is based on shocking, unsettling real-life events. Anchored by a terrific central performance from Aksel Hennie (Headhunters), the film sometimes strains to force the true story into a standard conspiracy movie structure. But it still has a bracing sense of urgency.
Hennie stars as Petter, Norway's top deep-sea diver, who in the early 1980s is recruited by the state-owned oil company to work with the Americans to lay a pipeline on the ocean floor connecting the mainland with off-shore drilling platforms. But this is uncharted territory for divers who will be working up to 400 metres below the surface. And when a test dive takes a fatal turn, Petter isn't convinced it was an accident. He certainly doesn't trust American diver Mike (Wes Bentley), but then everyone else is just as shifty.
Intriguingly, filmmaker Skjoldbjaerg shoots this in a gritty 1980s style tinged with the increasingly frazzled Petter's tenuous grip on reality. Diving this deep does something to the brain, so perhaps this is all in his mind. But Hennie is so likeable that we struggle with him to work out the truth, which means travelling through a Hitchcockian thriller in which everyone seems to be trying to kill him. This is fiercely clever filmmaking that's only let down because it's too clever for its own good.
Continue reading: Pioneer Review
Petter is a passionate offshore diver who harbours dreams about reaching the depths of the North Sea. When he and his brother Knut are selected to journey 500 metres below the ocean's surface to install a pipeline after a massive amount of oil deposits are located, it should be the job he has been fighting for all his life, but now it's the job that has him fighting for his life. The Norwegian diving team are being aided by American divers in the project which could be worth a billion pound contract. When Petter and Knut are sent out on the first shifts to begin work, a sudden disaster causes Petter to collapse and Knut to die. The American team try and convince Petter that he has been suffering from blackouts and thus caused the underwater explosion that killed Knut, but Petter becomes certain that an overseas conspiracy is taking place - and putting his life at risk.
'Pioneer' is a gripping thriller based on true events that took place during the 1980s Norwegian Oil Boom. It features an international group of actors and has been directed and written by Erik Skjoldbjærg ('Nokas', 'An Enemy of the People', 'Insomnia'). It is set to be released on April 11th 2014.