The voyage of the Kon-Tiki was one of the greatest DIY experiments of the 20th century, proving that six young scientists, using primitive technology, could traverse the Pacific Ocean on a homemade balsawood raft. In bringing the story to the screen directors Joachim Roenning and Espen Sandberg have produced a visually impeccable, professionally crafted modern vessel. The most expensive Norwegian film ever produced, Kon-Tiki has already proven a runaway success.

The 1947 expedition, under the captaincy of intensely charismatic experimental anthropologist Thor Heyerdahl, has already been the subject of a bestselling book and an Oscar-winning doc, yet there’s still plenty of grist left for a feature film. Portrayed with great energy by Pal Sverre Hagen Heyerdahl is first seen living on the remote isle of Fatu Huku. After hearing tribesmen tell mythic origin stories, observing the local flora and studying the tides, Heyerdahl begins to develop the radical proposition that the native Polynesians originally arrived from the Americas, rather than Asia.

Trashed by the scientific community, he sets out to prove his theory by sailing the 4,300-mile route from Peru to Polynesia himself, using nothing but indigenous material, and essentially surrendering all navigation to the ocean currents. He recruits three fellow Norwegians, as well as an eccentric Swedish cameraman and a bumbling, out-of-shape refrigerator salesman as his engineer.

Once aboard the Kon-Tiki, the sextet is beset by omnipresent sharks, storms and the slowly mounting realization that the hemp lashings holding the boat together are loosening by the day. It’s in these scenes that Roenning and Sandberg show their class as filmmaking technicians. Though they allow individual crew members plenty of intimate moments, one is always well aware of the size of the ship and the characters’ positions on it, and the infinite variety of angles used to shoot the boat can be stunning.

This is filmmaking of great ambition and ability. Kon-Tiki’s most outrageously fantastical sequences are completely verifiable. The film’s technical aspects are uniformly excellent, and the it rarely loses momentum despite a two-hour running time. - Andrew Barker, Variety


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