Film review: KON TIKI, from Built For Speed

Kon Tiki has nothing to do with drunken Aussies on package overseas holiday tours. Instead, it’s a dramatisation of the amazing journey taken across the Pacific Ocean in 1947 by Norwegian archaeologist Thor Heyerdahl. Thor believed that, a thousand years ago, Polynesians had originally journeyed to the pacific islands from South America rather than Asia as was popularly believed. When scientific publications rejected his claims he decided to prove his theories by sailing an exact replica of an ancient Polynesian raft (named Kon Tiki after the Incan sun god) nearly 5,000 miles from Peru to the Tuamotu islands.

As with Life of Pi, this film mostly features people (Heyerdahl and his five man crew) floating on a raft and battling the elements in an endless expanse of ocean.  This could easily have been a dull scenario but the film’s depiction of the vastness of the task and the precariousness of crew’s situation as they are menaced by sharks, battered by storms and see their raft start to fall apart thousands of miles from land is engrossing.

While this is a straightforward (almost docudrama-like) telling of Heyerdahl’s story rather than the over the top special effects orgy of Pi, it still contains some astonishing images.  The scenes of giant whale sharks sliding beneath the raft and of bizarre luminous jelly fish lighting up the sea at night are more realistic than in Pi and ultimately more effective.

Performances from the cast are all solid but are subordinate to the natural spectacle surrounding the actors. The film attempts to up the drama by including the traditional sweaty panicky crew member who starts to become paranoid about the safety of the journey but this adds little to the film’s impact.   Kon Tiki does, however, capture the stress of six guys, most of whom had no sailing experience, being squashed together on a large balsa wood raft for 100 days.

The film also plays up a romantic angle as Thor’s quest for knowledge threatens his relationship with his wife Liv although this seems tacked on.

This is a remarkable story and at times a stunning film although it’s not quite the emotional drama it could have been.


Nick’s rating:  Three stars.

Classification: M.

Director(s):  Joachim Rønning, Espen Sandberg

Release date: 11th Apr 2013

Running time: 118 mins.


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