Pioneer Review: Deep Water, Shallow Story


  • Writtern by Nikolaj Frobenius, Hans Gunnarsson, Cathinka Nicolaysen, Erik Skjoldbjærg, and Kathrine Valen Zeiner
  • Directed by Erik Skjoldbjaerg

Early in this Norwegian thriller, two brothers—both highly-skilled deep-sea divers—have a talk. The one who’s a loving husband and father tells his bachelor brother that this will be his last dive; he wants to spend more time with his family. And so the clichés begin.

Set in the early 1980s, Pioneer’s plot wraps around a competition over which country will control a very lucrative oil pipeline in the North Sea. Will it be virtuous Norway, or the evil United States? The movie doesn’t play coy about who it’s rooting for. All of the Americans are crude, violent, and involved in an evil, murderous conspiracy. Many Norwegians are involved in the conspiracy, as well, but at least they feel guilty about it.


The surviving brother, Petter (Aksel Hennie, star of wonderful thriller Headhunters), is blamed for the fatal accident. But he knows it’s not his fault. How could it be? He’s the star of the picture!

As Petter begins to look into the matter, people start trying to kill him. He’s even run off the road by one of those evil American divers. Mind you, no one is really taking his claims seriously at this point. Here’s a suggestion for anyone running an evil conspiracy: If someone is publically talking about your murderous work, and everyone else assumes that this person is crazy, his death in a car accident involving one of your employees will do your public image more harm than good.

Call it a thriller by the numbers. The twists and turns of the plot are almost all predictable. Really, did you possibly expect that the friend helping him wouldn’t turn up dead?  What’s more, Petter just isn’t all that interesting a protagonist.

The movie improves considerably in the last act, when the climax I expected didn’t happen. That was nice, but I had to wait for more than an hour to be surprised by a plot turn

Director Erik Skjoldbjaerg and his merry band of four co-writers never bring up the big question: Should this oil be tapped at all? I guess that raising the planet’s temperature and risking disastrous oil spills are acceptable goals if it helps Norway.