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Kon-Tiki

* * * * -

The tension may flag at points, but this retelling of the 1947 cross-Pacific expedition boasts great acting, wonderful visuals and a tremendous sense of isolation.

Image of Kon-Tiki

Available on DVD and Blu-ray from Mon 13 April 2015

Joachim RønningEspen Sandberg /
UK, Norway, Denmark, Germany, Sweden /
2012 / 118 mins

Anybody who walked into an office in the 1940s and asked for funding to build and sail a raft across the Pacific should have not been surprised if jaws hit floors and the silence was soon replaced by guffaws of laughter. And yet that’s exactly what Thor Heyerdahl did in 1947.

Charting the expedition Heyderdahl undertook to cross the Pacific in a raft in order to prove his theory that Polynesia had been settled by migrants from as far as South America, Kon-Tiki is a boys’ own story that makes the Everest expedition look like a walk up Edinburgh’s Royal Mile.

Under Joachim Rønning and Espen Sandberg’s assured direction, we embrace the joyful euphoria of the eve before a great adventure, as Heyerdahl (Pål Sverre Hagen) assembles his crew for a make or break trip using only materials available to the original migrants.

The jubilation is short-lived, however, as domestic pressures, the ever-present menace of nature’s wrath, and the soul crushing monotony of being stuck on a raft for days on end begin to push human endurance to breaking point.

Yet despite some great acting, wonderful visuals and a tremendous sense of isolation that only bobbing around on the world’s largest ocean can bring, there is never any impression that the expedition is doomed to fail. Tension flags in places and the inevitability of a near fatal shark attack is clearly signposted for the viewer.

Despite these minor bugbears, Kon-Tiki is another welcome addition to the canon of great foreign language films that have graced our screens over the years, and a worthy beneficiary of an Academy Award nomination for Best Foreign Language Film.