11 April 2014

Film Review - Pioneer (2013)

Arrow Films
Release Date:
11th April 2014 (UK)
Rating: 15
Erik Skjoldbjær
Askel Hennie, Wes Bentley, Stephen Lang, Andre Eriksen

Erik Skjoldbjærg’s thriller plumbs some pretty murky depths to tell its tale of espionage in the Norwegian oil industry. Pioneer looks to exploit the good work done by recent Scandinavian suspense story, A Hijacking, but becomes increasingly wearisome as its whodunit story plods along amidst a dreary backdrop of oppressive interior design and lacklustre facial hair.

The discovery of oil in Norwegian waters in the 1970’s prompts a scramble to secure drilling rights with native, Norwegian companies teaming up with American counterparts to lay claim to the precious black stuff. The uneasy partnership sees both American and Norwegian divers travelling to the see bed to begin work on an underwater pipeline with tensions and stakes high. A desperate accident leads to the death of veteran diver, Knut (Andre Eriksen) leading his brother Petter (Aksel Hennie) to carry out his own investigation into the dangerous and devious working practices that lead to his death. The digging sees Petter slowly uncover a conspiracy with the investigation ultimately becoming more and more dangerous.

Skjoldbjærg has had success in the past melding paranoia and obsession, but Pioneer never reaches the suspicious heights of previous works such as Insomnia.

The grimy, dangerous world of undersea drilling is a fascinating environment in which to set a neurotic story of double-crossing and espionage. It’s an oppressive, claustrophobic world inhabited by burly, working-class types with perma-frowns and distracting beards. Sadly, although the initial, catastrophic descent to the seabed is compelling enough, it’s followed by conspiracy story that’s lacking in intrigue.

Hennie is watchable enough as the everyman dragged through the ringer as he chips away at the layers of deceit, but he’s never backed-up by a script that punches below its weight.

Wes Bentley’s mysterious diver with unclear motivations sums up the perfunctory, distracted feel of the movie, brooding away without clear intention or focus.

Pioneer lets us know that it’s a story grounded in fact, drawn from real-life events. That it’s never elevated to anything more than a curiosity is a real shame.


Chris Banks

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