By Anna Power Film Editor [email protected]_Film
I knew nothing of the epic voyage that Norwegian explorer Thor Heyerdahl made in 1947, sailing across the Pacific Ocean from Peru to Polynesia on a raft, so Kon-Tiki for me was a history lesson as well as a seafaring adventure story.
Shot with breathtaking cinematography, the film is visually striking with genuinely awe-inspiring oceanic vistas complete with Dolphins, Sharks and electric Jellyfish. Pål Sverre Hagen plays charismatic adventurer Thor, who with little more than a winning smile, Aryan good looks and a raft load of self-confidence, accomplished the seemingly impossible – to prove his theory that The Polynesian Islands were populated not by people heading west from Asia but rather by indigenous people travelling East from South America. His theory, at the time, was laughed at by members of the Royal Geographic Society spawning a conviction in non-swimmer Thor that he would prove it by replicating the early settlers voyage in an authentic Balsawood raft.
The story is pretty astonishing and provides a juicy plot, which unfortunately the film doesn’t fully exploit. Apart from a raging storm, and a school of circling sharks there is little drama to fill the myriad of hours adrift at sea on the raft. The crew, a presumably interesting collection of men, we learn little about, despite ample opportunity for disclosure of their personal motivations for being there. This was 1947 and there was the hint, at least for one of the men, that it may have been a bid to escape the remnants of war-torn Europe and guilt over atrocities enacted as part of warfare, but that’s all. The most dynamic and well rounded character was fridge salesman Herman (Anders Baasmo Christiansen) who at least expresses some vulnerability and has a mini-meltdown on board.
Overall, I enjoyed Kon-Tiki and was gripped at times by it but as a film I wanted more than a standard biopic with glossed over events and stunning views.