Erik Skjoldbjærg (Insomnia) directs this gritty drama about the risky experiments and shady dealings that led to the birth of the Norwegian oil-drilling industry in the early 1980s.


Special Presentations


Erik Skjoldbjærg

Erik Skjoldbjærg, who helped lay the groundwork for the contemporary Nordic thriller with his international hit Insomnia (1997), returns to the Festival with this propulsive, gritty film about the birth of the Norwegian oil industry in the early 1980s. Norway's biggest star, Aksel Hennie (Headhunters, Max Manus), plays Petter, a bachelor whose sole passion is deep-sea diving. Petter and his brother Knut (André Eriksen), a family man, take part in a test of whether it's possible to lay pipelines 500 metres below the frigid North Sea.

Helping the Norwegians is a team of Americans employed by a multinational company that desperately wants the drilling contract. When the first test goes catastrophically wrong and no one is willing to take responsibility, an infuriated Petter digs deeper into the incident to find numerous conflicting interests and suspects. Beyond the evasive Americans and their unctuous leader Ferris (Stephen Lang), there's the Norwegian government, whose seedy representative seems to have crawled out of Coppola's The Conversation.

Pioneer presents the sea not as an enchanted setting but as a perilous, foreboding environment. The film's extraordinary opening sequence plays like a waking nightmare, as the men struggle to stay awake and focused inside a compression chamber, dealing with hallucinations and helplessness while watching the American scientists and technicians who control their fates argue vehemently. Hennie is, as always, exceptional, this time as an Everyman who's in over his head. He is supported by an amazing Norwegian cast, as well as Americans Lang and Wes Bentley, and Australian-born Jonathan LaPaglia.

Pioneer is a conspiracy thriller about the ethical pitfalls of high-stakes investment, acknowledging the financial boon created by the oil industry — which made Norway a very wealthy country — but intensely sensitive to the costs that accompany compromise.



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