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DVD Review

DVD cover



Starring: Aksel Hennie, Wes Bentley and Stephen Lang
Distributor: Arrow Films
RRP: £19.99
Certificate: 15
Release Date: 04 August 2014

When gas and oil were discovered in the North Sea, the potential profits ran into billions. For Norway there was only one problem, the sea shelf around the country was too deep for the divers to work safely. The Norwegians turned to American expertise, but this would come at a cost. During an experimental dive Petter over inflates a sealing tube killing his fellow diver. Petter thinks that something has gone wrong with the dive, but his search for answers will bring him into conflict with powerful forces and ultimately threaten his life...

Pioneer (2013. 1 hr, 46 min, 59 sec) is a thriller, directed by Erik Skjoldbjærg (Insomnia 1997) from a script written by five writers. The events were purportedly based on what really happened. The film won three awards and was nominated for a further two, mostly for acting and cinematography, which ended up being the two best things about the movie.

One of the best things about the film is Aksel Hennie’s portrayal of Petter, a man searching for answers in what increasingly feels like a cover-up. Because of the paranoia felt by Petter we are never sure what is true. The film shows him over inflating the seal, causing the death, but it also shows that Petter zones out during the procedure. Convinced that this should not have happened, Petter searches for answers, but, is this the action of a man trying to clear his good name or that of a man trying to avoid his guilt?

The film is in Norwegian and English, but you still get the burned in subtitles for both. The first half of the film is a taut thriller, opening with what looks to be actual footage of the drilling in the north sea, Skjoldbjærg ably mixes the film's element, the late seventies look, the dream like quality of being under the sea, breathing experimental gas, as it turns out this is the better half of the film.

The discovery of the potential conspiracy, or not, takes up much of the film and unfortunately is overlong. Now Skjoldbjærg is brilliant at mixing paranoia with apprehension, just watch the brilliant Insomnia, but keep it going for too long and the audience suffers paranoia fatigue.

As well as being visually arresting the film is further driven by an excellent soundtrack, courtesy of French band AIR. The picture is good, for a DVD, only suffering from a little softness. There is only one audio track, 5.1. The disc contains no extras.

It may be that the director chose the length of the film to give the pacing a slow, dream-like quality, which is great, unless you’re shooting a thriller, then it just feels a little over long.


Charles Packer

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