Thursday, October 23, 2014

Pioneer [dir. Erik Skjoldbjærg]

Last night I saw Pioneer on the Arrow Films blu-ray. The protagonist of the film, Petter (Aksel Hennie, who would never be given a lead role in a Hollywood film), is Norway's star diver in a joint test mission with an American group to install an oil pipeline at the bottom of the sea for offshore drilling. During the course, a freak accident occurs, which leads to the death of Petter's brother, also a diver on the mission. Fighting guilt over possible responsibility in his brother's death, Petter investigates the matter, only to find a lot of doors being closed in his face, and even some attempts on his life. The challenges he faces in trying to ascertain the cause of the accident form the major crux of the film. As the story deals with a Nordic-American collaboration, the film has a mix of Norwegian and American actos, and Avatar's beloved evil colonel Stephen Lang plays a pivotal role.

Pioneer is not exceptional as a suspense/noir, but remains fairly solid with some (heh) immersive moments in its diving sequences. The pacing is mostly measured and low-key, as are the performances. The underwater scenes are excellently shot and there is a lovely moody electronic score from the French duo Air.

Arrow Films' (which is apparently a different company than the one that handles the Arrow Academy and Arrow Video labels) blu-ray is very solid in the technical presentation. Underwater, with its limited lighting and inherent murk, is never a great showcase for video quality, but we have a very strong presentation here with nicely saturated deep colors. Audio-wise I am likely short-changing the 7.1 surround track by playing it through stereo speakers but it sounds strong, especially in the occasional action sequence and in Air's score. There are zero extras here, which is disappointing for a film which would have had some interesting shooting challenges.

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