Film Review: Pioneer


Erik Skjoldbjærg’s mystery thriller Pioneer has a strong start, but falters in the second half of the film. Pioneer certainly stretches the ‘based on true events’ inscription.

With Norway keen to capitalise on the oil beneath their waters, the help of the Americans is enlisted to excavate the precious resource. A small team is sent on a deep sea dive, but when tragedy strikes it is up to one of the divers to uncover the truth…

Pioneer is based around real events that occurred in the 1980s when oil was discovered in the North Sea. Viewers will realise, however, to take this tag of realism with a healthy dose of skepticism as the film twists and turns.

There is a level of intrigue to the plot that keeps viewers engaged. The effects of decompression and the conditions of the divers is emphasised effectively in order for the audience to question the events following the accident, for a certain time at least.

Pioneer‘s story is plausible enough to begin with. The action unfolds in a way which does not contradict the film’s true events credentials. As the narrative progresses, incidents increasingly surprise with their implausibility. The lack of authority involvement, for example, when things take a dangerous turn is never explained.

The ending of the film feels protracted. A natural and more climactic ending should have occurred about twenty minutes earlier than the actual ending. When the climax arrives, theatrics appear over blown. Whilst the titles before the end credits fill in some of detail of what happened next on a wider scale, this once again reinforces the true events tag. In which case, the lack of repercussions for such a notable incident seems bizarre.

Cinematography in Pioneer is good. The camera work effectively conveys the claustrophobia of the unusual setting. Colour and composition work well in the diving sequences. Performances in the film are decent, with Aksel Hennie offering a solid portrayal as Petter.

Pioneer is disappointing for the fact that the initial set up could have delivered a compelling thriller, instead of one that makes viewers question its plausibility.