Directed by Erik Skjoldbjærg
Starring Aksel Hennie, Wes Bentley, Stephen Lang, Stephanie Sigman, Jørgen Langhelle, Ane Dahl Torp
Original Soundtrack by Air
In UK Cinemas April 11th, 2014

by Joanna Orland

Scandinavian thrillers have been all the rage since The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo series hit bookshelves.  Norway has not been left out of the hype.  Jo Nesbø’s novel to film adaptation Headhunters received a BAFTA nomination in 2013 for Film not in the English Language, and Erik Skjoldbjærg’s Insomnia was remade with Christopher Nolan at the helm with such heavy-hitters as Al Pacino, Robin Williams and Hilary Swank in front of the camera.

Now Norway’s biggest film exports join forces for Pioneer.  Director Erik Skjoldbjærg and Headhunters star Aksel Hennie unite for this latest Scandinavian thriller which is already rumoured to be the subject of a remake by George Clooney and Grant Heslov.  Set in Norway in the early 1980’s, the story centres on a team of Norwegian and American deep sea divers in their effort to extract oil from the North Sea.  Based on true events, the film is beautifully shot and is as artistic as it is thrilling.  Each scene, especially those epic underwater shots, is uniquely engaging.  Aksel Hennie in the lead role of Petter is captivating in one of his best performances to date.  In spite of such praise, there are a few flaws with the film that minimize its impact and may leave audiences somewhat unsatisfied.

Petter and his brother Knut are two of the Norwegian divers taking part alongside a team of Americans in a test to see if it’s viable to lay pipelines at depths of 500 metres deep to extract oil in the North Sea.  On one of their dives, the brothers are involved in an accident that leaves Petter in search of answers which lead to him unraveling a conspiracy.

In addition to being beautifully shot, thrillingly tense and wonderfully acted, Pioneer emanates a sense of claustrophobia, fully immersing the viewer in the deep sea world of the divers.  Whether the characters find themselves in pressure chambers for weeks on end or hundreds of metres into the depths of the sea, the audience is left holding their breath in anticipation.  Sadly, this anticipation is never fully satiated due to a few unbelievable and forced moments in the film, but if willing to ignore these few mistakes, we are looking at a Norwegian masterpiece.  George Clooney should keep his hands off as this film is already destined for greatness as is.

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