Film Critic, Movie Blog, Movie Reviews

KON-TIKI (2012)

KON-TIKI (2012)

Directed by: Joachim Rønning, Espen Sandberg   Runtime: 1 hr 58 min   

Studio: Nordisk Film Production (released in the U.S. via the Weinstein Company)

Screenwriter: Petter Skavlan   Rating: PG-13

Cast: Pål Hagen, Anders Baasmo Christiansen, Tobias Santelmann, Gustaf Skarsgård, Odd-Magnus Williamson, Jakob Oftebro  

*Released domestically in November 2012 and as an international release in the United States in April 2013. (The U.S. version is about twenty-minutes shorter). An interesting fact about this movie’s production. Its scenes were shot first in Norwegian and then in English. So the actors did everything twice! 

Movies like KON-TIKI are not action-packed blockbusters full of CGI and stunts to enthrall you. Its attraction lies in the story, the journey, and the wanderlust of times long gone, when things were still left in the world to be discovered. 

An explorer and adventurer named Thor Heyerdahl (Pål Hagen) spend the 1930s in Polynesia immersed in research on the natives and their origins. The world had taught, up till then, that the Polynesian islands were settled by travelers from Asia who traveled from West to East, and it couldn’t be any other way. Thor tries to sell other explorers and scientific publications on his theory that this isn’t true, but they all wave him off. 

Kon-Tiki Offical Trailer (English version) via YouTube/Movieclips Trailers

Not to be discouraged, Thor believes that if he proves his theory, he will change history. So he decides to travel across the Pacific and do just that.

Thor attracts Herman Watzinger (Anders Baasmo Christiansen), a refrigerator salesman who offers to join him. Later, after hearing of his quest, Thor is approached by Bengt Danielsson, an Ethnographer (Gustaf Skarsgård), to go along and film the journey. The six-man crew is rounded out by Knut Haugland (Tobias Santelmann) and Torstein Raaby (Jakob Oftebro) as the radio guys, and Erik Hesselberg (Odd-Magnus Williamson). Erik is a lifelong friend of Thor’s. He’s also the only one to ever have been out to sea.

The film dramatizes the real-life Thor Heyerdahl’s attempt to cross the Pacific Ocean on a balsa wood raft. So it is based on a true story. 

Watching KON-TIKI, the audience must remember that the story isn’t about character development (except perhaps Thor’s) or drama. There isn’t anything discernible that is learned about the crew. I have not read the book myself, so I’m assessing this just from a cinematic perspective. Usually, lack of character anything would bother me. However, it’s the relatively calm nature that is depicted that is so refreshing. No one acts like the sun has baked their brains for too long. It’s about the journey. How it will end, as all journeys do. Will they all make it? Will the raft hold up? The crew takes each day as it comes. As if they tossed a coin into the ocean of fate and left fear behind at the docks. I don’t know anyone who would be that insouciance about their lives. 

Kon-Tiki route. Image: The UK Times

Despite that, there is suspense in the film. They are in the middle of the ocean! With storms and wildlife to contend with, those external factors create natural obstacles and incidents which every story has. These factors enable smooth pacing to the days at sea and for the actors to actually do things. It’s done so well that the film never comes across as slow or uneventful. While watching, I never get the impression that something is overly done because it’s a movie, fictionalized though it may be. That’s important because it keeps with the fact that this journey really did happen once. 

This movie reminds me of something I might have watched in school after being assigned to read the book. Please, don’t let that put you off! This isn’t a typical movie or family movie night choice in America anyway. I was looking for other projects that Gustaf Skarsgård had done that I could watch here and came across this. It’s a good film to watch for movie night, a day off pick, or for a relaxing weekend stay indoors. Any well-crafted movie that enlightens me about something else in the world finds its way onto my watchlist. KON-TIKI is a perfect balance of entertaining, action, and real-life events that should grace your watchlist too. 

—a pen lady