Director Erik Skjoldbjaerg’s suspenseful thriller begins as Petter and Knut, brothers and two of Norway’s best professional divers, are training to dive a death-defying 500 metres below the surface of the Black Sea. It’s the early eighties, and oil and natural gas reserves worth millions have been discovered off the shores of Norway. Working as part of a joint Norwegian-US effort for a multinational corporation, the two men risk everything to reach the ocean floor and the untapped natural resources. When their first mission ends in tragedy, Petter must uncover what really happened and why.

Sixteen years ago, Skjoldbjaerg made his directorial debut with the contemporary thriller classic Insomnia (later remade by Christopher Nolan), and his return to the genre is a wonderfully tense work with ever-rising stakes. Boasting an atmospheric soundtrack by AIR and a superb lead performance by Aksel Hennie, one of Norway’s biggest stars, Pioneer is a gripping tale of determination, avarice and paranoia in the deep sea.

Philadelphia Film Festival