Movie Review: “Pioneer” Is A Dark And Gritty Thriller


Review by James McDonald

A thriller set at the beginning of the 1980’s Norwegian Oil Boom and centered on a diver whose obsession with reaching the bottom of the Norwegian Sea leads to tragedy.

“Pioneer” is a gritty drama that takes places during the late 1970s when Norway was beginning its program for oil harvesting. They bring in Petter (Aksel Hennie) and his brother Knut (André Eriksen) who are commercial offshore divers to assist and cooperate with an American company that has the technological advances to help Norway achieve its goal of bringing the oil ashore through a pipeline from depths of 500 meters. On the first dive down however, Petter experiences a temporary blackout and as a result, there is a terrible accident and Knut is knocked unconscious. After bringing the team back up to the surface, they try to revive him but to no avail and he dies in Petter’s arms.

Later, Petter begins to experience more and more blackouts and when he approaches his team leader and brings it to his attention, he is told that it’s natural for divers who have gone so deep, to sometimes experience dizziness, fainting and temporary amnesia. When he requests his medical records he is denied and when he demands to see the footage of the accident that killed his brother, he is told there was no recording. Gradually, Petter begins to suspect a coverup and quickly realizes it when one of his colleagues informs him that in order for the team to be able to dive deeper than anyone has ever previously done before, the Americans have been experimenting with various blends of gases in order to assist them with decompression sickness.

The movie makes for a very intriguing thriller because you never really know who is working for who and what their real motives are. It was also refreshing to see a film set in and around Norway instead of the usual American or U.K. backdrops so when the action picks up, you have no idea where you are or where you’re heading, with no familiar landmarks to give you an idea of location. Wes Bentley (“Interstellar”) and Stephen Lang (“Avatar”) appear sporadically throughout the movie but the film really belongs to the Norwegians, in particular the film’s lead, Aksel Hennie and director Erik Skjoldbjærg, who successfully infuses 1970s-era intrigue and suspicion into a compelling and thought-provoking movie.

In theaters, VOD and on iTunes now

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James McDonald
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