Wednesday 16th October, 3.15pm – BFI Southbank, NFT3
Starring the spectacular Aksel Hennie (Headhunters), Pioneer is an edge-of-your-seat thriller that explores the tense aftermath of the mysterious death of a deep-sea diver. Director Erik Skjoldbjærg (Insomnia) introduces us to the 80s Norwegian oil boom, where local and American entities co-operated to install pipelines along the ocean floor in a bid to bring valuable oil deposits to the shore.
Protagonist Petter (Hennie) and his brother Knut (André Eriksen, Nokas) are professional divers charged with the task of working at experimental depths to lay said pipelines. During an early test run, Petter blacks out and causes an accident that kills Knut. Guilty and suspicious, Petter investigates the cause of his blackout and desperately tries to find out whether he was truly responsible for his brother’s death. His unwelcome questions quickly have him in way over his head with both the Norwegian and American teams.
Skjoldbjærg is an auteur talent akin to Christopher Nolan, with a keen knack for suspense. The opening scenes are shot in confined tubes with thick, glass peepholes that instantly set a claustrophobic feel. Meanwhile, the use of blurred close-ups and odd jolts in time during Petter’s blackout scenes work to instil in audiences the same terrifying confusion felt by the protagonist.
With credit to the director and his co-writers Hans Gunnarsson and Nikolaj Frobenious, their story unfolds gradually enough that viewers will first wonder whether Petter has concocted a conspiracy to cope with the guilt of causing Knut’s death. However, as the supporting cast’s performances become increasingly ominous, viewers will find themselves taut with apprehension. With many of the characters behaving somewhat strangely, it becomes hard to tell who Petter can trust – as is Skjoldbjærg’s intention.
The film is stylish and sophisticated, complemented by a fantastic cast. The most notable performance comes from Aksel Hennie, with Wes Bentley (The Hunger Games) following close behind in the role of intense and aloof American diver, Mike. Erik Skjoldbjærg impressed filmgoers with his debut Insomnia in 1997, and promises to thrill them once again with this clever, edgy conspiracy.
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Watch the trailer for Pioneer here: