Pioneer is a thriller set partly underwater in which, after huge oil and gas reserves are discovered in the North Sea in the 1970s, the race is on to lay a pipeline deep in the ocean. However, it’s easier for the US than it is for Norway, given the logistics of the depth of the terrain down there.
Based on true events, a small crew, led by Petter (Headhunters‘ Aksel Hennie), go down to do some technical work and an an accident leads to the death of one of the crew, which Petter takes very badly because he wants to find out the truth about what happened as part of what went wrong led to him blacking out, as his country are carrying out tests to see if the crew can stomach a depth of 500 metres below sea level. Petter’s black-out then had repercussions, but who’s to blame overall?
The truth about the situation may be a tough nut to crack, but what starts off being a gritty drama, then ends up dragging as it goes on rather too long and it certainly needs tightening up. This is a shame since the two leads are respsonsible for two of my favourite films over the years – the aforementioned Headhunters and from Stephen Lang, as Ferris, who’s in charge of things in Pioneer, The Hard Way, a wonderful comedy from 1991 where he played the baddie known as The Party Crasher, with cop John Moss (James Woods) and cheesy well-known actor Nick Lang (Michael J Fox) trying to take him down – so while this film featuring both of them is worth a watch, the anticipation of seeing Hennie and Lang together didn’t pay off.
All that said, while it goes on too long, it’s also worth watching for the little touches, for example, I was intrigued about the type of VCR Petter uses in one scene, and it turned out to be the Philips Video Cassette Recording system from 1972-1979.
The film is in its original 2.35:1 widescreen ratio and in 1080p high defintion and is crisp and clear with no issues whatsoever, whether in the deep underwater scenes or occasional bright, outdoor scenes.
For the record, I’m watching on a Panasonic 50″ Plasma TV with a Samsung BD-P1500 Blu-ray player.
Sound-wise, there’s some nice atmosphere created underwater with use of a score made by the French band Air, responsible for many classics including Sexy Boy, Kelly Watch That Stars, All I Need, Playground Love, Cherry Blossom Girl and How Does It Make You Feel?, but in other areas it’s mostly dialogue that fills the speakers so it’s not a film which will give them a workout.
Sadly, there are zero extras on this disc which is baffling, and so even if you’re a fan of the film, it’s difficult to recommend a purchase.
The menu is mostly static but features some clips from the film in parts of it, but there is a lack of a decent number of chapters with just a bog-standard 12, the same low number a lot of distributors tend to use. Personally, I go by the rule of thumb of one every five minutes.
Subtitles are in English only. The dialogue is a mixture of Norwegian and English language – although mostly the former – and the subs appear for both, which is handy as they cross over language quite often in the same conversation, so it helps to make sure you don’t miss something which you thought was in Norwegian yet was actually in English.
There are also a couple of trailers before the main menu, but these belong in an extras menu, not stuck at the front as if we’re still in the age of rental video. As such, I won’t be listing them here.
As you put the discs in, the menus burst into life with clips from the films and a piece of the music within. There are subtitles in English, but when it comes to the chaptering, I feel one should come every five minutes on average. Arrow, like many other distributors, go for a low 12 however long the film. I would like them to increase that number.
Running time: 111 minutes
Distributor: Arrow Films
Released: August 4th 2014
Picture: 1080p High Definition
Sound: DTS HD Master Audio 5.1, DTS 5.1, Dolby Digital 5.1
Languages: Norwegian and English
Disc Format: BD50
Director: Erik Skjoldbjærg
Producer: Christian Fredrik Martin
Screenplay: Nikolaj Frobenius, Hans Gunnarsson, Cathinka Nicolaysen, Erik Skjoldbjærg, Kathrine Valen Zeiner
Petter: Aksel Hennie
Mike: Wes Bentley
Ferris: Stephen Lang
Maria: Stephanie Sigman
Ronald: Jonathan LaPaglia
Pia: Ane Dahl Torp
Leif: Jørgen Langhelle
Knut: André Eriksen
Jørgen: David A. Jørgensen
Trond: Endre Hellestveit
Minister: Arne Lindtner Næss
Jørgen’s father: Jerker Fahlström
Trude: Janne Heltberg
Jeger: Eirik Stubø
Reviewer of movies, videogames and music since 1994. Aortic valve operation survivor from the same year. Running DVDfever.co.uk since 2000. Nobel Peace Prize winner 2021.