Movie Review: PIONEER

Duff here…

Vintage suspense, strong acting, and ABYSS-like underwater shots highlight the Norwegian drama PIONEER.

The 80’s are not the only setting of this film, but it could’ve been made in the decade of birth as well. I mean it, from the pacing, to the camera angles, even the underwater scenes feel retro. The subject of big business, insider type stuff is something we don’t see in many films anymore…Michael Mann’s The Insider is the last one I remember caring about. Not saying this is a reason to discourage one from seeing…not at all. I love these films, especially those late 70’s early 80’s dramas, like Network, The Conversation, etc…these were complex films with interesting characters.

Pioneer is a film about pressure, both the physical kind like deep sea diving, and the kind of letting down a nation, you’re family—the pressure to do the right thing. Petter (Aksel Hennie), the central character, is the study of man under all this turbulence. After he loses his brother in a questionable diving accident, the wheels are in motion, the screw turns…

Petter knows his brother was murdered, maybe it’s the rival American team, who wants the oil pipeline just as badly, maybe it’s his own government, how greedy are they?

Hennie, does a great job here, I’ve never seen him in anything before (not a huge watcher of Norwegian cinema), he reminds me of Paul Giamatti. The change he undergoes to prove who killed his brother is intense.

Rounding out the cast is Wes Bentley and Stephen Lang. Lang is the head of the American interest, he’s both in charge of the dives and lobbyist. The performance is good, what you expect from Lang, but the role so akin to many of his other roles. Once he’s introduced…you go, alright.

Bentley’s rival diver another strong outing for him. Boasting a Texas accent, Bentley’s character is hard to figure out…is he in on it? does he care? Wes is having a strong comeback from substance abuse and the film is better for it.

Pioneer is directed by Erik Skjoldbjærg, most Yanks don’t know him, but are most likely familiar with Christopher Nolan’s remake of his much darker Insomnia. Nolan’s version was set in Alaska and starred Pacino and the late Robin Williams. Erik’s direction is fantastic, and really save this film. The drama, though compelling is unoriginal. That’s not really a knock on the film, it’s just once you’ve had chicken, adding rice to it, doesn’t blow you away, know what I mean. The dive scenes are excellent, Cameron would approve!

Like insomnia, this film is also set to be remade, this time with George Clooney. It’s be interesting to see who is cast…Damon? (I’m sure it’s out in the Sony hacked emails) The film is right up George’s alley, heavy, political, it’s a critic musing. 

 In the end, Pioneer is a solid film, suspenseful with gratifying performance, but lacks a knockout punch. It’s more than worth the VOD rental fee,  just for the underwater scenes alone.

From Magnolia Pictures:

Directed by Erik Skjoldbjærg
Starring Wes Bentley, Stephen Lang and Aksel Hennie

This conspiracy thriller is set in the early 80’s, the beginning of the Norwegian Oil Boom. Enormous oil and gas deposits are discovered in the North Sea and the authorities aim to bring the oil ashore through a pipeline from depths of 500 meters. A professional diver, Petter, obsessed with reaching the bottom of the Norwegian Sea has the discipline, strength and courage to take on the world’s most dangerous mission. But a sudden, tragic accident changes everything. Petter is sent on a perilous journey where he loses sight of who’s pulling the strings. Gradually he realizes that he is in way over his head and that his life is at stake.

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