15A cert, lim release, 106 min
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