In 1947, Norwegian explorer and author Thor Heyerdahl set out to prove that, 1500 years ago, early inhabitants of South America traveled in balsa wood boats 4300 miles across the Pacific Ocean to land on and inhabit the islands of Polynesia. He documented his harrowing adventure and won the Academy Award in 1951 for Best Documentary. This story is dramatized by co-directors Joachim Ronning and Espen Sandberg in their 2012 Academy entry for best foreign language film with “Kon-Tiki.”
There were several foreign language films that I would have preferred to be nominated at this year’s Oscars. Still, I was looking forward to “Kon-Tiki,” having seen Heyerdahl’s original 1951 Oscar-winning documentary (also called “Kon-Tiki”) when I was a kid. (Kids, at least when I was one, loved adventure movies.). Filmmakers Joachim Ronning and Espen Sandberg recreate the harrowing adventures experienced by the original mariners aboard the Tiki,
Pal Sverre Hagen, as explorer Thor Heyerdahl, leads a cast of equals as the adventurer who had a unique theory on how the Polynesian islands were populated one and a half millennia ago. Most theorists, then and now, contend that the islands were inhabited from the west not the east. But, Heyerdahl and his crew put their reputations and lives on the line to prove those theorist wrong. He may not have shaken the majority view, but he certainly proved it COULD have happened his way.
“Kon-Tiki” has the look of a documentary feature – with a big budget. The oceangoing photography, shot by Geir Hartly Andreassen, is outstanding and the filmmakers capture some stunning nature footage as the Kon-Tiki makes its nearly 5000 mile journey through storms, shark infested waters and razor sharp reefs. You get the sense of time – the trip took 101 days - and each member of the crew shows the physical changes of time at sea.
Though the modern “Kon-Tiki” is a dramatization of true events, these events feel real as we experience the dangers, frustrations and elations of the crew. (One of my favorite scenes in the film revolves around a 40-foot whale shark. It is one of true wonders in the movie.) From start to finish I felt the realism the filmmakers were going for. It is a good, exciting adventure film and should entertain older kids on up to seniors. I give it a B.
Laura also gives "Kon-Tiki" a B.
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