Trailer Face-Off: Pioneer vs. Tracks

Published March 20, 2014

Welcome to Thursday Trailer Face-Off, a feature in which we cast a critical eye on two similar upcoming film releases, pitting them against each other across a variety of categories to determine which is most deserving of your two hours. This week: Pioneer and Tracks, two films with protagonists who decide to voyage into the unknown, risking their lives in the process.

PremiseAs films, Pioneer and Tracks may have decidedly different tones—Pioneer is a dark mental thriller and Tracks a soul-searching epic—but they follow strikingly similar premises. Pioneer recalls the North Sea oil boom of the early 1980s: Petter, a deep-sea diver, embarks on a joint mission between his native Norway and the United States to build an oil pipeline at extremely dangerous depths. When things go wrong, he finds himself at odds with an American diver and competitor, and an entire oil corporation that seems to be blaming him. Tracks is an adaptation of Robyn Davidson’s memoir, about her nine-month, camel-led trek through the Australian desert to the Indian Ocean. Both protagonists take on life-or-death consequences of failure, but one film seems to be about finding yourself (Tracks) and the other about losing yourself (Pioneer).Advantage: Tracks

CastPioneer is a Norwegian film with an international cast, led by Askel Hennie (Headhunters) as Petter, the spiraling Norwegian diver, and Wes Bentley (The Hunger Games, American Beauty) as his American counterpart. Stephen Lang (Avatar) plays a smarmy American oil executive. Tracks has Mia Wasikowska (Alice in Wonderland, The Kids Are All Right) as Robyn, and Adam Driver (Girls, Lincoln, Inside Llewyn Davis) as Rick Smolan, the National Geographic photographer/love interest assigned to Robyn. Clips from the trailer and early reviews from Pioneer‘s Norwegian release signal that Hennie and Bentley’s performances are grippingly strong, but Adam Driver’s raw intensity in a feature film with Mia Wasikowska would dwarf pretty much any comparison.Advantage: Tracks 

AestheticsAside from compelling and strangely similar plotlines, both Pioneer and Tracks promise stunning, rarely seen landscapes. Pioneer‘s visuals of the sub-marine and Tracks‘s shots of the vast Australian desert make for stiff competition, and that’s not even taking into account the way their plots use atmosphere as an action-driver. Pioneer‘s deep-sea tension presents interesting plot dynamics and obstacles.Advantage: Pioneer

ThemesPioneer is supposed to be an old-school mental thriller that tests its lead’s sanity. Both films put their protagonist’s mental state to the test, but for Tracks‘ Robyn, there’s a meaning to the madness. Call us sappy, but these days it’s unusual to see a movie with such an optimistic resolution.Advantage: Tracks

MusicFrench band Air, who have previously scored Sofia Coppola’s The Virgin Suicides and contributed songs to Lost in Translation and Marie Antoinette, composed the soundtrack for Pioneer. The soundtrack for Tracks is so far unreleased, but the trailer features soaring indie track, “Outro” by M83. Hopefully more dramatic shoegaze and indie cuts will follow. Garth Stevenson’s score for the film has also garnered a good bit of attention.Advantage: Pioneer

The VerdictPioneer has potential. It’s got a retro conspiracy premise, an international cast, and a score and visuals that would win competitions on their own, but the dark and twisted mental thriller isn’t exactly lacking in today’s film landscape. Tracks has the same kind of high stakes premise, but there’s a uniqueness and an optimism in what Tracks is trying to accomplish.Winner: Tracks

Trailer Face-Off runs every Thursday. For more, click here.