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Pioneer

2014
Directed by Erik Skojolbjaerg
Starring Wes Bentley Stephen Lang and Aksel Hennie

Set in the early 1980's Pioneer tells the story of a deep sea diver. In looking over a list of films that focus on deep sea diving one thing became almost instantly clear, there have not been a great number of quality films made about deep sea divers. I found this surprising considering the claustrophobic nature of diving and inherent beauty of the ocean lends itself wonderfully to film. To make a thriller in this setting would be a challenge but after seeing this film I can say that it was a challenge worth taking. 

Its clear that Skojolbjaerg has been influenced by the better films of the 70's. With his first film Insomnia you could see that he loved character driven thrillers and Pioneer is no different. Not that this is a rehashing of his break out film but a return to the genre work that made him a director to watch. With films like Headhunters, Kon Tiki and Olso August 31st Norway has become quite the exporter of high quality films.  

This is an uncomfortable, claustrophobic journey filled with paranoia, a conspiracy thriller set right in the middle of the Norwegian oil boom. Apparently this film is based on real events and it certainly feels grounded in that way. Being the uneducated American that I am, I was unfamiliar with this story but I plan on looking into it after seeing the the film. My curiosity has been peeked.

The look of the film is dark and menacing. While most films choose to to emphasize the natural beauty of the ocean Pioneer has no time for such comforting imagery. That's not to say the film isn't well composed or designed because every frame is compelling. This is not a fantastical, escapist, roller coaster but its every bit as trilling as one. I've noticed a nice trend, one that has been slowly creeping up with the advent of VOD, smaller, more adult oriented films are coming out with more frequency and finding an audience.

If you like films that earn their tension through character and setting without relying on jump scares give this one a shot. 

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