A ripping, Oscar-nominated yarn from Joachim Rønning and Espen Sandberg
Seventy years ago Thor Heyerdahl's epic voyage from Peru to Polynesia was the real-life, high seas equivalent of Interstellar, as daring young men risked their lives on an adventure into the great unknown. Norwegian directors Joachim Rønning and Espen Sandberg have taken those true events and shaped them into a ripping yarn celebrating courage, sacrifice and manly heroism. There is a distinct whiff of 'Boys' Own' adventure about the telling but it remains a sincere, stirring enterprise, with Geir Hartly Andreassen’s glorious cinematography emerging as the true star of the film.
You suspect that the real Thor Heyerdahl (played here by Pål Sverre Hagen) may have been a more complex, mercurial figure than is shown. A dashing academic, Heyerdahl challenges the orthodox belief that Polynesia was settled by Asia. He asserts that South American explorers were in fact the first settlers and the only way to prove this is to assemble a crew, build a primitive wooden raft and sail the Pacific Ocean in the exact same manner as any initial expedition. It seems ridiculously simple and impossibly naive but that is what happened.
That's the cue for a hundred days at sea, and for storms and sharks, starvation and stoical endurance as Heyerdahl becomes blinkered to anything other than proving his point. He is not exactly a Captain Ahab-style obsessive but there is a strong enough sense of his disregard for human life to add some edge to the character. Andreassen meanwhile offers some breathtaking images of piercing blue skies, crystal clear waters and bronzed, bleached blonde adventurers. Oscar-nominated for Best Foreign Language Film back in 2013, Kon-Tiki is undeniably beautiful and exciting even if its directors do err a little on the safe side.
Selected release from Fri 19 Dec.