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Thor Heyederdahl's epic true-life adventure makes a mighty fine action/drama in high-def...
Anchor Bay / 119 Minutes / 2012 / Rated PG-13 / Street Date: August 27, 2013
Joachim Ronning’s and Espen Sandberg’s Kon-Tiki inspires a respect of the sea, that’s for damned sure. As we follow our lonely voyager as he and his team take on the rigors and wonders of the Pacific Ocean, it’s impossible not to consider that body of water as a de facto character in their tale – in many ways, actually, it’s Kon-Tiki’s antagonist.
But with this appreciation of the visible and unseen perils that the ocean holds comes an awe that makes a film like Kon-Tiki work like gangbusters. As we follow Thor Heyerdahl (Sverre Hagen) and his fellow sailors as they attempt to travel from South America to the Polynesian Islands, these dudes are dwarfed not only by the sheer enormity of the water around them, but also subject to its agonies and ecstasies. As I sat watching the movie (happily and decidedly landlocked, by the way), I couldn’t help but quietly pontificate on the wonder of the whole thing.
The film takes a quasi-fictional look at Heyerdahl’s grandest achievement: the Norwegian scientist was passionate in the mid-1940s about the idea that South American peoples arrived in the Polynesian Islands way before Christopher Columbus did, and to help make a case for this, he grabbed a handful of sailors, built a craft as someone in the 1300s or 1400s would, and traversed the Pacific Ocean.
The validity of Heyerdahl’s impulses aren’t concrete – anthropologists can neither confirm nor outright deny his theses – but on strictly cinematic platforms, Kon-Tiki is reliable, diverting entertainment. It’s more craftsman than aesthete, though that hardly matters when a story is this compulsively engaging. And it makes you want to jump on a sailboat and head out into the blue. Carefully.