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Reviews & Ratings for
Pioneer More at IMDbPro »Pionér (original title)

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45 out of 64 people found the following review useful:

Seventies political deep sea thriller with flaws

Author: OJT from Norway
1 September 2013

Pioneer is a thriller inspired by true events in the 70'ies, when Norwegians and Americans was experimenting with deep sea diving, so that oil could go directly in pipelines from the deep sea oil wells on to land. This was landmark and record breaking work, and there was some tension between the Norwegians and the Americans back then. Humans were guinea pigs, in the sense that this was never done before. You could call it a moon landing at deep sea.

This thriller has a very different style from what you might usually think a thriller should have. It bears resemblances with sci-fi films when landing on the moon. The feeling of the film is also close to films paranoia films like "The conversation" (of which thus doesn't even come close) or more known submarine films. Claustrophibic from time to time. The finishing scene is pure film art, but still maybe too obvious symbolic.

I found the film exciting, and I liked especially the way the underwater situations were told. We were taken in on the blurry life of deep sea divers, either they were looking through water, murky waters or glass, and drug effects making distortion on sight. I also liked the setting. Very bleak seventies, down to every little details as to colors like we see them on photos today, and to authentic looking milk cartons. This is very qualified film making in many ways.

However, there's some problems. The sound is a bad flashback from the seventies as well, and some of the ideas are not too well thought through. The limping (no more needed to be said) is ridiculous, and far off when it comes to the script. What the Hell happened here!?!

Once again I think Aksel Hennie is electric in his role, as were the others. Very good instruction, and quality actors all the way through. It was like looking on a seventies spy thriller. A very international crew, with Wes Bentley, Stephen Land, Jonathan LaPaglia, Stephanie Sigman, Ane Dahl Torp, all making us remember the seventies with both heart and shrugs.

Again screenwriter Nicolaj Frobenius proves his worth, as of course do director Erik Skjoldbjærg, which also has done great work with the films "Insomnia" (later remade by Christopher Nolan), "Prozac Nation", "An Enemy of the People" and the bank heist thriller "Nokas". But here there's some problems, and there are plot holes and easy solutions which irritates, especially on second watch. This tells that the film is more entertainment than really great filmmaking for film buffs.

What a director! So different films, and such great feels to every single one! Still this falls through compared With Insomnia and Nokas with much easier solutions, and a more shallow film making than we're used to by Skjoldbjærg.

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8 out of 11 people found the following review useful:


Author: kosmasp
18 June 2015

It might feel like a TV movie of the week at times, but it does have an interesting story to tell and is far more decent than you might expect. And suspenseful for that matter. The underwater scenes look really good and the acting is up to the task as well (as the men were back when this unfolds).

Not sure how much of the things shown, actually transpired, (this is based on real events during the 80s you see?) but the movie does a good job holding any viewers attention with people trying to find out what is actually going on ... will they find out? What consequences will there be either way though? It gets political at times obviously, but in a good way if there is one

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13 out of 22 people found the following review useful:

Watch Insomnia on DVD and Wait for Gravity

Author: Sophie Landry from London, UK
20 October 2013

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I caught Pioneer, an oil rush thriller set in the early eighties, at the London Film Festival. It was featured as part of 'Thrill' and promised to keep me "on the edge of my seat". The backers, Friland Produksjon, are also responsible for the critically acclaimed Headhunters adapted from Jo Nesbø's novel of the same name and Erik Skjoldbjærg directed the original Insomnia in 1997. What's more, one of Scandinavia's foremost actors and the star of Headhunters, Aksel Hennie, plays Petter, a professional deep-sea diver on a dangerous quest 500 meters down the North Sea. Air composed the soundtrack, Wes Bentley plays a shady character, Norway has glorious scenery and someone dies. 106 minutes would fly by.

Pioneer is that rare hybrid: an old school contemporary Norwegian film. The action takes place more than 30 years ago and the cinematography revisits the look and feel of classic late seventies thrillers to depict tensions between oil companies and state government. Here however, an over-reliance on grainy footage, amber and blue filters dims what could have been a series of eerie underwater voyages, as well as unfortunately, any real suspense. Instead it gives the audience a sensation akin to the claustrophobia of Das Boot without the sense of dread that pervaded it. Pioneer's omnipresent soundtrack creates an even greater disconnect where Das Boot had us trapped with a sombre Jürgen Prochnow inside a silent submarine during World War II.

The premise is excellent. It centers on the discovery of large resources of oil and gas at the bottom of the frozen North Sea. We are at the very beginning of the Norwegian Oil Boom which resulted in Norway's prosperity and high standard of living. Petter and Knut (André Eriksen) are brothers and colleagues involved in government-funded petroleum explorations and highly dangerous diving tests conducted in the great depths of the North Sea to establish whether pipelines can be installed. Just as we get to know the main characters, tragedy strikes. A compelling actor in whose performance there was barely enough time to get invested is gone too soon.

Pioneer is a well-intended production which had to make difficult stylistic choices to stretch a Scandinavian budget over expensive action scenes. It tries to be too many things at once and falls short of carrying significance beyond what is seen. Wes Bentley, so good in American Beauty, is confined to a redundant secondary role devoid of genuine purpose. He walks around looking sinister and utters a few English words here and there. Ironically, the dialog lacks depth. Clichés, particularly in the depiction of gender relations, often stand for character development. Obvious symbolism such as bodies of water representing femininity and a full moon to signal rebirth do not challenge the audience much.

Erik Skjoldbjærg said he was "heavily influenced by The Conversation, Chinatown and All The President's Men" in his desire to revive the seventies conspiracy thriller. I wish he had also named the older 2001: A Space Odyssey by Stanley Kubrick and exploited more of the dramatic Norwegian coast to better contrast deep sea-diving drama with conflicting human interests above ground.

My verdict? Watch Insomnia on DVD and wait for Gravity.

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2 out of 2 people found the following review useful:

Fairly Absorbing Norwegian Drama

Author: Larry Silverstein from United States
6 April 2015

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Inspired by true events, and set in the 1970's, this Norwegian drama seems to lack punch in the way it is presented and stretches credibility at times. However, it did hold my interest enough to want to know how it would all turn out.

The plot revolves around a huge oil and gas discovery in the North Sea, off the Norwegian coast, which could bring enormous wealth to Norway if a way can be found to lay a pipeline along the sea floor, which would transport the oil and gas to land.

It's unknown, however, whether divers working at those severe depths can survive. Thus, working jointly with America, teams of divers from both countries will undergo testing as to whether this engineering feat will be possible.

One of the Norwegian divers is Petter, portrayed by Aksel Hennie, who, on one dive, will black out momentarily thus failing to shut off a valve and lead to the death of his brother, working alongside him. When Petter finally emerges from the required decompression, he is driven to do anything he can to find out what really happened on the dive.

Petter will begin to realize that there are nefarious forces at work here and the conspiracy to cover-up the event reach far beyond what he could imagine. The projected profits are so great from this venture, that the actions of the conspirators will eventually lead to murder and mayhem.

In summary, this film, directed by Erik Skjoldbjaerg, I thought might have been presented in a way where the tension was heightened more formidably, but I still found it fairly absorbing and interesting enough to maintain my interest to the end.

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1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:

Very informative thriller let down by a weak script.

Author: bloke_shwin from India
6 August 2017

Saw this recently on a DVD. Been on my radar for a long time. Knowin that its from the director of the original Insomnia n the actor from Headhunters, it aroused my curiosity. The film is about Norwegians and Americans cooperating in diving deeper than anyone previously has done to prepare for the installation of a gas pipeline. I found the movie very informative, providing knowledge about decompression sickness. Professional divers r used as guinea pigs while scientists secretly tested gas mixtures thought to counteract harmful deep sea pressures without the participant's knowledge. The film features breathless n claustrophobic underwater sequences. The bottom of the ocean as the dark side of the moon with the Norwegian flag. The scenes where the divers r going through rigorous training to prepare themselves are very tense. The claustrophobic environment of the pressure chamber n the divers' hallucinations created a sense of dread. The cinematography is gorgeous with clean blues, greens, and amber colors. The pacing was a bit letdown. Once the movie is away from the sea, it becomes a bit slow. The other issue was that the American characters, (Lang n Bentley) weren't given more footage n dialogues. The relationship between the lead character n his brother's family were a bit melodramatic at times. The angle of the greedy corporations n politics were full of clichés.

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A damp squib

Author: paul2001sw-1 ( from Saffron Walden, UK
8 May 2017

'Pioneer' should by rights be an interesting film, inspired by true stories of commercial and governmental espionage, scientific advance, and personal bravery, as the Norwegian government was attempting to build (in the 1970s) its first pipeline to take North Sea oil ashore. But in fact, it's rather disappointing. Firstly, there's not much dramatic tension, in spite of a ostensibly vigorous plot. And secondly, that plot itself seems unlikely: large multinational companies are certainly guilty of many evils, but I find it relatively incredible to imagine they would murder Norweigian citizens to cover up ethics breaches - more normal behaviour would be to pay the fine and carry on as before. Perhaps it's because the motivation seems so preposterous that the story fails to ignite. The unvarnished truth (which we are told led to a lawsuit by disgruntled divers) would have been more interesting.

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Low key suspense thriller from Norway

Author: Leofwine_draca from United Kingdom
1 May 2017

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

PIONEER is a retro-feel Norwegian thriller about deep sea diving, particularly the laying of a huge pipeline by a transnational American-owned company. The film has a small scale feel to it, no doubt necessitated by the low budget, so that most of the action consists of a group of men sitting around in a decompression chamber. That's not to say that the film isn't worthwhile, because in many respects it's engrossing and at times gripping.

Much of the production's strength comes from the casting of Aksel Hennie, something of a natural when it comes to thrillers having already made HEADHUNTERS and MAX MANUS: MAN OF WAR. This film isn't quite as good as those two, but Hennie is; he's brilliant, in fact. The story draws in the usual conspiracy angles involving imported American actors Wes Bentley and Stephen Lang in somewhat familiar roles, but the sense of tension is palpable and the story is low key but engaging. It's not the type of film that's going to set the world on fire, but it is worth a watch if you're looking for something other than slap-bang entertainment.

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Author: Tweekums from United Kingdom
29 April 2017

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

This thriller is set in the early eighties; oil has been discovered in Norwegian waters but getting it ashore won't be easy as construction of the pipeline will require divers to work at unprecedented depths. As they prepare for test dives Norwegian divers are working alongside Americans, whose company has developed a secret gas mix that makes diving at such depths possible. This is vividly demonstrated in an early scene where Norwegian divers using regular air in a test chamber start hallucinating while an American in a separate chamber is fine.

When the first dive starts something goes very wrong for brothers Petter and Knut Jensen. An accident leaves Knut dead and Petter wants answers. He is told that he made a briefly blacked out so made a mistake but he doesn't accept this explanation; especially when told that there is no recording of the video feed. He starts his own investigation that initially centres on the man in the diving bell who was supervising the air feed but later switching to trying to discover just what the 'secret ingredient' in the American gas mix is… something the company has no intention of telling him as the Norwegian government would have no reason to grant them a contract if they knew the secret so could do the work without outside help.

I really enjoyed this taut thriller; the scenes underwater were very tense… even before things go wrong the situation is compared to walking on the moon. Once the accident happens the investigation is interesting; it makes a change to have an ordinary person carrying out an investigation rather than a police officer or private investigator. Petter's investigations raise several suspects and it looks as if somebody is willing to kill to stop him finding out after a contact 'accidentally overdoses'. There is also the possibility that those trying to stop him are working to protect a valuable business secret rather than cover up the cause of the accident. During the film there are plenty of tense moments as Petter gets into various potentially dangerous situations. The cast does a solid job; most notably Aksel Hennie who is rarely off screen in the role of Petter. Overall I'd certainly recommend this to those wanting a tense thriller that isn't reliant on non-stop action.

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1 out of 2 people found the following review useful:


Author: Guy from UK
9 March 2015

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

PIONEER takes us back to the Norwegian glory days of the 1980s when the North Sea oil boom was about to begin and a balding man in a white vest was considered a good catch. The hero is a deep sea diver who blacks out whilst taking part in a joint Norwegian-American dive to start extracting oil. His brother dies as a result and the hero is sure it's American corporate skulduggery to blame; although as he was unconscious when it happened, he can't be certain. Obviously inspired by the great 1970s realist conspiracy thrillers, this is an excellent film which lets the paranoia and uncertainty build. The hero is just as unreliable as his antagonists, and has a clear stake in proving a conspiracy as it will absolve him for his brother's death. Although made on a small budget, it's lovingly filmed, especially the diving sequences which are full of both wonder and gritty reality. The plot holds up well - especially the counter-intuitive (for Scandis) final revelation - and there are some great low-key chases. If you're looking for a unique thriller than look no further.

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2 out of 7 people found the following review useful:

Anything but gripping

Author: Paynebyname from London, England
13 February 2017

Saw this advertised on Sky Movies. The movie poster had an Abyss feel to it, which I guess did the job of getting my interest.

The info then described this as a gripping 80's thriller. Believe me, unless your idea of gripping is people sitting around in decompression chambers, jittery flashbacks announced with annoying sound effects and far too much coverage given to the lead guy's fur lined jacket, this couldn't be further from the truth.

I watched this for about 50 minutes before the boredom became more crushing than the pressure at the bottom of the Marianas trench.

The Wave wasn't bad but after this and the appalling The Last King, I think I'm gonna have to give these Norwegians films a bit of a miss.

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