Kon Tiki Reviews
First told in the Oscar-winning 1951 documentary, Kon-Tiki retells the story of Thor Heyerdahl's most famous expedition: drifting 5,000 miles across the Pacific Ocean on a balsa-wood raft to prove that it was possible for pre-Columbian South Americans to take an ocean passage to Polynesia. Finally had the opportunity to catch this film, and I am impressed. The film opens with trenchant childhood prologue of young Heyerdahl, ignoring his friends and crashing into a frozen lake, nearly drowning himself in the frigid waters. A brief glimpse but rather important in establishing to us that Heyerdahl is a man who is a risk-taker. The story quickly fast-forward to Polynesia in 1937, where grown up Heyerdahl (Pål Sverre Valheim Hagen) develops a theory that these "South Sea Islands" were not originally discovered by Asians 1,500 years ago but by South American Incas, guided to their destination by the god Tiki. Met with a series of harsh rejections and ridicule to publish his theory, which only further fueled his relentless endeavor, the iron-willed explorer sets out to convince the skeptics by building his own raft without proper funds, using the Incas' original primitive methods and material, and recruiting 5 other men for his hundred-day journey.
As we already know that the protagonist survives at the end, it did not stop directors Rønning and Sandberg from recreating a riveting and emotional adventure of the 6-men crew, as we witness their perilous journey paddling through merciless storms, close encounters with a whale and sharks. Though some may argue that the film is projected in a rather old-fashioned manner, with lesser sensationalized action, peaks and twists; I find it rather apt as we are brought back to this amazing voyage which took place nearly 70 years ago. For what's lacking in action, Rønning and Sandberg cleverly make up for it by focusing more on the drama that takes place on the raft. Although the film dwells a bit more on the drama than the documentary, the directors' decision to make it a psychological drama stemmed from their research that there were indeed disagreements and drama that took place. And thank goodness for that decision. It makes the film all the more staggering to watch, a handsomely-mounted human drama. The casts are on point, especially lead Hagen. His crew members are Erik Hesselberg (Odd Magnus Williamson), Knut Haugland (Tobias Santelmann), Herman Watzinger (Anders Baasmo Christiansen), Torstein Raaby (Jakob Oftebro) Bengt Danielsson (Gustaf Skarsgård).
Replete with breathtaking Pacific panoramas scenes, Kon-Tiki is captivating for its visuals alone. The storytelling however is equally solid, too, all adding up to a fitting tribute to the inspiring triumphant achievement by the legendary Thor Heyerdahl.
With a judicious use of CGI, "Kon-Tiki" is a great looking dramatization of the famed ocean voyage. The problem lies in the movie's length. It's not that the movie is too long; rather for once it is not long enough.(The running time on the DVD I watched was one hour, thirty-eight minutes, 20 minutes shorter than the theatrical running time.) So, while the movie focuses on the bigger, more suspenseful moments(nothing against sharks, by the way), it otherwise feels rushed. Instead, the pace should have been leisurely, allowing the story to take its time to unfold in detailing this epic voyage which does not really feel epic here.