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2012 | 119 min | Mediatilsynet: 7 | 2.39:1



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Theatrical release date

 26 April, 2013

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Screenshots from Kon-Tiki Blu-ray

Kon‑Tiki Preview  

 / 10
Preview by Brian Orndorf, January 25, 2013

Man vs. the elements is a common theme in moviemaking, allowing for an appealing sense of ruggedness and oneness with nature that instantly lends itself to movements of high adventure and the euphoria of personal discovery. “Kon-Tiki” accepts the genre challenge with an incredible story of survival and scientific craving to help power its cinematic urgency, delivering genuine awe as it details the unwavering curiosity of Thor Heyerdahl and his amazing trip from Peru to the Polynesian Islands in 1947. Rich with character and heavy with ocean-based peril, “Kon-Tiki” is unexpectedly exciting and refreshingly human, retaining a searing sting of heartache and doubt as it manufactures eye-popping moments of near-death experiences and the strange tranquility of total isolation.

Spending his twenties in Polynesia with wife Liv (Agnes Kittelsen), Nowegian explorer Thor Heyerdahl (Pal Sverre Valhiem Hagen) acquired a deeper understanding of the culture, appreciating his surroundings while developing an insatiable curiosity about the area’s origin. Traveling to New York to publish his findings, Thor finds minimal interest in his work, while his domestic life with Liv remains on thin ice, as the adventurer is away from his family for much too long. Hunting for a demonstration of his theory that Polynesia was founded by Peruvians, Thor decides to test the navigational might of Tiki and sail across the Pacific Ocean on a raft made of balsa wood, trusting the winds will take him from South America to his destination. Gathering a team of engineers, communications experts, and documentarians, the Kon-Tiki sets sail, off on a 100-day journey fraught with challenges involving the local shark population and atmospheric concerns. Clinging to his dream despite his command of a disintegrating raft, Thor holds his men together, trusting in his vision to ride into the unknown.

Reportedly Norway’s most expensive movie production to date, “Kon-Tiki” certainly looks like a considerable amount of care and coin were used in its creation. Directors Joachim Ronning and Espen Sandberg (“Max Manus: Man of War”) launch an ambitious take on a tricky story, attempting to generate suspense from a historical event that takes place primarily on a wood raft, keeping the characters in tight with one another as the journey carries on for over three months. To combat such potential screen stillness, the writing highlights Thor’s tenacity and interest in the region, studying the man’s frustration as his literary dreams are squashed by knowing publishers, while additional efforts at fundraising are doomed from the start, with the explorer finding it difficult to communicate his mission to skeptics. There’s also a question of Liv, his suffering wife, who desires to see her husband return to his familial responsibilities in Norway. The world is against Thor and his vision, with the first third of the feature set aside to comprehend the man’s determination to prove himself and scratch an unreachable itch of discovery, though one that involves a ragtag crew of sailors and civilians and a raft that’s destined to fall apart.

The rest of “Kon-Tiki” captures Thor’s mission to the west, aided by science, some degree of technology, research, and blind faith, hoping to mirror an ancient navigational experience others have dismissed as impossible. It’s a time where the filmmakers bring out the personalities of the crew, finding the men getting used to one another, studying their slippery grasp on faith as accidents occur and Thor’s leadership is questioned. However, “Kon-Tiki” doesn’t dwell on petty bickering, instead finding a deeper sense of conflict as the sailors understand the importance of sticking together as a unit. This sense of teamwork is tested throughout the voyage, finding probing creatures of the deep blue sea a particular trial of survival, with whales and sharks displaying interest in the raft’s progression, leading to a few humdinger sequences where aquatic attacks put lives at risk, generating superb suspense. There are also touches of serenity, with the gang inspecting bioluminescent life underwater, while a gorgeous scene late in the picture touches on the enormity of the universe from the perspective of the weary crew, reinforcing their microscopic place in the natural world. A few meditative moments make all the difference, urging “Kon-Tiki” to a blissful position of introspection.

The journey is arduous, surveying starving and fried men, yet “Kon-Tiki” retains a classic adventure pose, communicating the power of resolution, while issuing oceanic challenges to its final moments. It’s a gripping story sold with a gorgeously mounted feature that remains as expansive as history recalls and intimate as cinema allows.

Starring: Pål Sverre Valheim Hagen, Anders Baasmo Christiansen, Gustaf Skarsgård, Odd Magnus Williamson, Tobias Santelmann, Jakob Oftebro
Directors: Joachim Rønning, Espen Sandberg

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