Thor Heyerdal was a world famous explorer who sought to prove that Peruvians had settled Polynesia. To do this he attempted to float 8000 kilometers across the Pacific Ocean on a wooden raft.
Kon-Tiki is a slightly visually stylized dramatization of these true events. It’s the story of the triumph of the human will and a very driven man; willing to go to extreme lengths, no matter the cost.
Pål Sverre Valheim Hagen anchors the whole thing. As Thor we’re most aware of his story and motivations; his performance is by far the best. The rest of the crew put in good work as well, but are far less compelling as we’re given little in the characterization department. However, the American characters, in what little screen time they are given, are remarkably lacking.
The film feels well paced, taking you from the inception of the trip to the tribulations of the voyage. Flashbacks that give greater insight into Thor’s way of thinking are well interspersed. In effect this keeps the 118 minute film from dragging.
Kon-Tiki’s emotional highs aren’t quite as soaring as the film shoots for but it does manage tension well in the form of sharks. It’s no Jaws, but it works. There are also moments of welcome comic relief sprinkled throughout.
It’s a technically accomplished film (as it should be, it’s the most expensive Norwegian film ever made) complete with lush cinematography. Almost every single shot out on the water is breathtakingly beautiful while still reminding you how alone they are out there, at the mercy of the sea.
Directors Joachim Rønning and Espen Sandberg execute all of this well enough to hide the fact that the film isn’t truly original in any meaningful regard. But it’s just so well done that it ends up a moot point.
Final Verdict: A well made, gorgeous looking adventure film. Kon-Tiki goes to show that Nordic filmmaking isn’t confined to art-house drama. Not a true classic, but a great tale of human triumph none the less.