Kon-Tiki
"Right from the start, the film is a cinematic feast and a testament to the advantage the big screen has for showing the gorgeous colour and scale of nature in general"

For a certain generation, Thor Heyerdahl is a legend. Born stubborn, the film tells us, this explorer of the modern era had the audacious theory that the South Sea Islands had been colonised by people from South America and decided, against the wisdom of the time to try to prove it. His pig-headed determination broke the establishment view of the world and revalued the skills of ancient sailors.

As a boy, Heyerdahl’s hard-headed determination is made clear and this follows him into many of his choices. I found the portrayal of his life on the island of Fatu Hiva, with his wife Liv, played seriously yet with grace and beauty by Agnes Kittelson, defined the word idyllic. Heyerdahl, played with intensity and conviction by Pål Sverre Hagen, developed the idea that the Polynesians originated in South America. Following the Second World War, after trying and failing to have his ideas accepted by the scientific establishment, Heyerdahl decides the only way to prove the idea is to get funding to make the difficult voyage on a raft himself. His fortitude and luck-prone ability to get his own way see him through to the day he and his unlikely crew of wannabes finally set off to prove his point on a raft made of balsa wood and named after the sun god, Kon-Tiki.

Right from the start, the film is a cinematic feast and a testament to the advantage the big screen has for showing the gorgeous colour and scale of nature in general. Even the short scenes of 1946 New York appear rich and on a huge scale, even though they are largely CGI (I think!). Directors Joachim Rønning and Espen Sandberg have produced a gorgeous film which has stayed true to Heyerdahl’s original spirit and plays the risks out very clearly.

The story as portrayed, is both gripping and exciting, with wonderful scenes of danger and plenty of sweaty, bearded male rivalry. Packed with action and very realistic excitement – the arrival of the Whale Shark is particularly exciting and wonderfully done – the film never flags.

Reviewed on: 17 Apr 2015
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Re-telling of anthropologist Thor Heyerdahl’s transformational 1947 journey by raft from Peru to Polynesia.
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Jennie Kermode ***1/2

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London 2013

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