Kon-Tiki

Review by Sophie Monks Kaufman @sopharsogood

Directed by

Espen Sandberg Joachim Rønning

Starring

Anders Baasmo Christiansen Gustaf Skarsgård Pål Sverre Hagen

Anticipation.

A true adventure story that’s ripe for cinematic treatment.

Enjoyment.

Enjoyable but not as exciting as it should be.

In Retrospect.

Pål Sverre Hagen shines like a golden star seen from a raft at night.

An enjoyable men-at-sea adventure yarn that falls short of capturing the drama of its true story Scandinavian source.

“Believe everything will be okay and it will be,” says dirty-vest sporting angelic blonde, Thor Heyerdahl, through a wry grimace. He’s addressing a dubious raft-mate as they both drift through the Pacific Ocean in this dramatic retelling of the real 1947 expedition. Why is anyone sailing on a raft when ships exist?

This ties into another belief held by Thor: that Polynesia was populated, not from Asia as the expert consensus maintained at the time, but from South America. Being a plucky explorer type in possession of a ragtag gang of healthy Norwegians, Thor decides to prove the plausibility of his theory by journeying from Peru to Polynesia using only the materials available to the natives at the time. We’re talking balsa wood and other ancient-Inca-conveniences.

The raft – like the 1951 documentary, and like this very film by directors Joachim Rønning and Espen Sandberg – was called Kon-Tiki, named after the Inca sun god. With Pål Sverre Hagen playing the Nordic adventurer and ethnographer, the film has a glittering star. Looks place him as the genetic combination of Aiden Gillen and Ryan Gosling which is apt as Hagen is apparently Norway’s answer to The Goz. He has the steady and appealing composure of a man wedded to dreams in a way that reality can’t shake. Intensity pulses gently in early, establishing scenes of Hagen living and working in Polynesia looking golden and intrepid with equally golden and intrepid love interest, Liv (Agnes Kittelson) and fiercely as he gets grubby and questioned during 101 days on a raft.

Kon-Tiki is a film that takes a while to set sail. Formative Polynesian life is replaced by Thor getting laughed out of the National Geographic office and anywhere else he chooses to pitch his raft scheme. There’s plenty of forlorn mooching before his crew gradually takes shape. The ‘gutsy gang of eccentrics with nothing to lose’ trope is played with a hesitance that makes you wonder why it was used at all. The appeal of this type of buccaneering stranger-than-fiction adventure story is adrenaline and conviction. Rønning and Sandberg take pains to ensure that biographical facts are a big part of this film, making sure to include phone calls between Thor and his now-wife Liv that expose the tensions his expedition is causing. For a drama set at sea, there is a lot of rope tying it to dry land.

Once they finally get out on the waves, the fun begins. Storms, sextants and plenty of sharks trouble the crew of six as they grow beards and stroll around topless under the sun. Aside from a few polite questions when things get gnarly, there’s no in-fighting with the source of drama always coming from the elements. There is a certain gentleness to the storytelling that means that curiosity value never turns to heightened tension. More so that being a gentleman adventure quest story, this is about what can be achieved when you follow a path of your own forging. It’s a charming and enjoyable message in a charming and enjoyable tale. But perhaps there should have been tougher edges to this drama about a 5,000 mile raft journey across the Pacific Ocean.

Published 14 Dec 2014

Anticipation.

A true adventure story that’s ripe for cinematic treatment.

Enjoyment.

Enjoyable but not as exciting as it should be.

In Retrospect.

Pål Sverre Hagen shines like a golden star seen from a raft at night.

Read More

Pirates of the Caribbean: Salazar’s Revenge

By Adam Woodward

The fifth instalment in Disney’s swashbuckling franchise is scuppered by a certain Mr Depp.

review

In the Heart of the Sea

By Matt Thrift

There’s something majorly fishy about this high seas folk tale – and it’s not the enormous whale that shipwrecks Chris Hemsworth.

review

Journey to the Shore

By David Jenkins

A ghost trapped in limbo accompanies us on a romantic road-trip, but only tedium ensues.

review

What are you looking for?

Little White Lies Logo

About Little White Lies

Little White Lies was established in 2005 as a bi-monthly print magazine committed to championing great movies and the talented people who make them. Combining cutting-edge design, illustration and journalism, LWLies has been described as being “at the vanguard of the independent publishing movement.” Our reviews feature a unique tripartite ranking system that captures the different aspects of the movie-going experience. We believe in Truth & Movies.

Editorial

Design