I’m a huge fan of INSOMNIA, both the Erik Skjoldbjærg-directed 1997 original version and the Christopher Nolan directed remake in 2002.It was a solid story, and a mystery that really kept you guessing throughout the entire film, a talent that Skjoldbjærg has been able to carry over into his subsequent films following that great mystery thriller. With the newly released PIONEER, Skjoldbjærg tells a very gripping and enthralling tragic tale of an accident that happens to divers trying to complete an oil tunnel underwater.
Following Petter, a commercial diver who, along with his brother Knut, joins a team mixed with both Norwegians and Americans, working together to dive deep into the ocean (deeper than ever attempted) to build a tunnel that will serve as a gas pipe, bringing oil through it and making people rich. There’s an instant disconnect between the Norwegian and American teams (Wes Bentley does a great job as Mike, a tough and absolutely mean member of the American team), so right from the beginning, we’re given a hefty amount of tension, as the teams prepare for the big dive. During the testing parts, some of the Norwegian members begin to hallucinate and though it’s worrisome to them, the American powers that be see it as a small sidetrack, and continue on with the mission.
Due to that lack of taking every little precaution to make things work perfectly, the team is involved in a tragedy that leaves one of the members dead, and the tone of the film shifts, from a diving adventure/drama to a full blown conspiracy theory approach, and I mean that in the best of ways. Petter is so determined to solve the puzzle of what happened, his mind thinks of nothing else, and he puts himself in danger multiple times, trying to find out the truth about what happened during the dive.
Skjoldbjærg’s talent as both a writer and a director really shines with PIONEER, and his ability to pull you into a huge conspiracy of a story and keep you on the edge of your seat the entire time is a testament to his skill, and the actors he chose to fill the roles all make for one hell of a cast. It’s great to see Wes Bentley in a film like this, because the guy is underused a lot in films, and it’s an interesting thing to see, his performance as Mike. HEADHUNTERS‘ Aksel Hennie really steals the film, as Petter, a man bent on finding out the truth, and his intensity with the character makes the danger feel that much more realistic. As each piece of the puzzle begins to reveal itself, Petter finds out one horrible truth after another, and Hennie’s performance shows just how talented he is, as a performer.
It’s a very emotional and story-driven film, full of twists and filled to the brim with excellent performances from all actors involved. A conspiracy thriller that rivals the best ones of the last ten years, and stands confidently on its own feet, while telling a story that’s impossible to turn away from for 111 minutes.