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3.6 out of 5 stars29
3.6 out of 5 stars
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on 31 October 2014
Pioneer's protagonist, Petter (Aksel Hennie, who would never be given a lead role in a Hollywood film), is Norway's star diver in a joint test mission with an American group to install an oil pipeline at the bottom of the sea for offshore drilling. During the course, a freak accident occurs, which leads to the death of Petter's brother, also a diver on the mission. Fighting guilt over possible responsibility in his brother's death, Petter investigates the matter, only to find a lot of doors being closed in his face, and even some attempts on his life. The challenges he faces in trying to ascertain the cause of the accident form the major crux of the film. As the story deals with a Nordic-American collaboration, the film has a mix of Norwegian and American actos, and Avatar's beloved evil colonel Stephen Lang plays a pivotal role.

Pioneer is not exceptional as a suspense/noir, but solid with some (heh) immersive moments in its diving sequences. The pacing is mostly measured and low-key, as are the performances. The underwater scenes are excellently shot and there is a lovely moody electronic score from the French duo Air.

Arrow Films' blu-ray is very solid in the technical presentation. Underwater, with its limited lighting and inherent murk, is never a great showcase for video quality, but we have a very strong presentation here with nicely saturated deep colors. Audio-wise I am likely short-changing the 7.1 surround track by playing it through stereo speakers but it sounds strong, especially in the occasional action sequence and in Air's score. There are zero extras here, which is disappointing for a film which would have had some interesting shooting challenges.
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Based on actual events this is an intriguing and intense conspiracy thriller set in the early 1980s when the Norwegian government collaborated with experienced American diving companies to explore the laying out of pipelines at great depth beneath the North Sea in order to bring the newly discovered enormous oil and gas deposits ashore. In order for this project to be successful the bodies of the divers used in the exploration are pushed to their limits as they must endure extreme conditions hitherto not encountered by human beings. When his brother is tragically killed in front of his eyes during a test dive deep beneath the ocean the movie’s protagonist Petter refuses to accept the explanation given and starts asking questions which many people involved in the venture find uncomfortable and potentially damaging. Despite the pacing of the narrative being at times pedestrian the level of tension is generally maintained throughout, especially during the underwater sequences and the scenes inside a decompression chamber where the sense of claustrophobia and vulnerability is palpable as the hostile alien environment presented definitely has a feel of a SF movie. However, at times there is a vagueness in the narrative as we are not quite sure as to whether what we observe is a symptom of Petter’s reaction to the breathing gasses given to him in order to cope with the extreme pressures or actual reality, whether he is hallucinating due to the neurological damage caused by these chemicals. The film certainly succeeds in portraying the underlying deviousness and friction between the Norwegian state and the American diving companies as both vie to reap the rewards of harvesting the newly discovered riches and therefore making this so much more than a run-of-the-mill action/psychological thriller. Definitely a film to seek out, but probably one to watch on television or to rent rather than purchase.
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on 8 March 2015
As a big fan of Nordic films I wanted to like this 'thriller' about divers in peril drilling off the coast of Norway for oil particularly since it starred Wes Bentley. But, the film is slow & plodding and frankly Wes Bentley is barely a secondary character who comes off as selfish & only cares about his diving glory. The film is about the death of one diver's Brother and his search for the truth about what happened. The film has the 'fuzzy', yellow tone look as if you were watching a film made in the 70's which helps in terms of believablity but, but the end result just isn't very satifying.
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on 2 March 2016
Appalling. Apart from the fact that this film is murkily shot, looking very much like a low rent film from the '70s, and full of clunky acting and direction, the subtitles are impossible. I can't understand how so many people have been able to review this film at all, as most of the dialogue was not translated, apart from several sections where the character was speaking English- THIS was subtitled.

I have to admit that we didn't watch more than fifteen minutes of this film as we couldn't work out what was going on. Doesn't Amazon check out their foreign films occasionally to make sure they are properly subtitled?
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on 26 May 2015
Firstly ignore the loud cover and the very American looking hero , bad packaging . This is a Nordic low key story of how the first oil pipeline was set up and how the divers were used as guinea pigs . It doesn't sound a very exciting plot and yet I loved it . Great mood of 70s , usual quality scandi acting and well paced ending .
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on 7 August 2015
Poor and boring story with only a few minutes of diving operation.
I'm an old sat diver and to be honest I was expecting something more exityng than a simple story like this.
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on 14 February 2016
Interesting conspiracy type movie, but you have to be ok with subtitles for a lot of it as film is set in Norway and has lots of Norwegian actors.
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on 6 May 2016
Excellent fact based film. Strongly recommended. Hollywood will remake it and ruin it. Watch the original it won't be beaten. Los
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More art-house than action-adventure, Pioneer nonetheless kept us utterly gripped with intriguing plot developments, stunning underwater photography and a powerful central performance.

In common with many Scandinavian film and TV productions, Pioneer blends bewildering undercurrents of menace, sudden peaks of dramatic tension (which can themselves evaporate into thin air) and prolonged pauses for thought; hung moments of character contemplation. But this is not your standard Nordic noir police procedural with multiple murders and a charismatic detective. Instead it’s a very different kind of thoughtful thriller, more like A Hijacking than The Killing…
The setting is 1980s Norway at the start of the oil boom. The fierce competition between Norwegian and international oil companies to successfully build deep-sea pipelines provides the backdrop to a taut if atypical thriller. It’s claustrophobic in the extreme: dragging the viewer into the extended hell that is a tiny decompression chamber shared by three brawny blokes for weeks at a time.
The pioneers of the title are trying to work at extreme depths on the sea floor, using experimental breathing gases but still suffering weird hallucinations and ‘lost time’. Politics between the supposedly collaborating American-Norwegian effort sows distrust, and culminates in a wrenchingly matter-of-fact fatal accident. There’s a strong suggestion that it was human error on the part of a diver which caused the catastrophe – which is personally shattering for him – and the rest of the film follows his efforts to uncover the truth, haunted by further hallucinations and distraught with guilt. Meanwhile, the corporate types attempt to cover up the accident’s causes – and such is the film’s subtlety that we’re not sure if their activities extend to violence and murder, of it that’s a symptom of the diver’s neurological damage. The boundaries become… blurred.

All of which sounds grim, and in the main it is. But Pioneer is not without relief and resolution; the imaginary albatross is almost a comfort. And there are certainly some stunning and unexpected action sequences. The plot also shows the Norwegian oil boom and its reputation for establishing that country’s social support system in an entirely new light.
Enthralling, if uncomfortable.
8/10
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on 27 November 2015
Good for everyone but especially for people interested in diving ether commercial or recreationaly
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