PIONEER

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - CINEMA - TARA BRADY

15A cert, lim re­lease, 106 min

PIONEER

Di­rected by Erik Skjold­b­jærg. Star­ring Ak­sel Hen­nie, Wes Bent­ley, Ak­sel Erik­sen Stephen Lang 15A cert, limited re­lease, 106 min

Commercial deep-sea divers Pet­ter (Head­hunters’ Ak­sel Hen­nie) and his brother Knut (Ak­sel Erik­sen) sign up for du­ties with an al­liance of US petroleum com­pa­nies and the Nor­we­gian govern­ment. It’s a dan­ger­ous as­sign­ment: the men and their surly Amer­i­can col­league (Wes Bent­ley) must ven­ture 500 me­ters un­der the North Sea to help plot con­struc­tion of a pipe­line.

Com­pelling early scenes chron­i­cle the hal­lu­ci­na­tions and un­con­trol­lable gig­gles that comes from be­ing stuck in a pres­sure cham­ber set to repli­cate deep sea con­di­tions. But on the day of the ac­tual dive, some­thing goes wrong and fam­ily man Knut is in­jured.

It falls to the dare­devil Pet­ter to un­cover the de­tails. Is he act­ing out of guilt? In­creas­ingly shady go­ings on sug­gest that just be­cause he’s para­noid – and suf­fer­ing from post- dive brain dam­age – doesn’t mean that a lot of people aren’t keep­ing an eye on him. The lone­li­ness of the deep sea diver is never lone­lier than when he finds him­self at the cen­tre of a vast con­spir­acy. So the script stretches to in­clude a foxy sis­ter-in­law and var­i­ous Deep Throats.

View­ers who en­joyed such Scandi hits as A Hi­jack­ing and The Deep will be pleased with this solid ac­tioner from In­som­nia di­rec­tor Erik Skjold­b­jærg. Pioneer isn’t quite as thrilling. But its sus­tained sense of para­noia and in­trigue over­shadow the plot­holes and many un­likely escapes. The late 1970s set­ting adds to the sense that we’re watch­ing a proper po­lit­i­cal con­spir­acy pic­ture.

Not quite. Be­neath the po­lit­i­cal in­trigue this is es­sen­tially a run­ning man drama, jol­lied along by and an an­gu­lar score from French duo Air. Hen­nie, a thor­oughly like­able screen pres­ence, sure can run. But we knew that al­ready.

Ge­orge Clooney has snapped up the rights for a Hol­ly­wood re­make. If it’s good enough for Ge­orge . . .

Div­ing in: Ak­sel Hen­nie and Wes Bent­ley in Pioneer

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