By Mark Saldana
Rating: 3.5 (Out of 4 Stars)
This Norwegian film received an Oscar nomination for Best Foreign Language film this year. So it came as a bit of a surprise to me when all of the characters in the movie spoke English. As part of my usual research prior to writing reviews, I discovered that the filmmakers actually simultaneously shot two versions of Kon-Tiki, one in English and the other in Norwegian. As a critic who prefers realism, especially in films based on true events, I have mixed feelings about this strategy. On one hand, from a business perspective, this is a brilliant strategy. A lot of English speaking Americans prefer English language movies and often dislike reading subtitles. I actually don’t fall into that category. For realism sake, I would prefer that movies are presented in their native languages, and I have no trouble reading subtitles. In fact, if given the choice, I would have selected the Norwegian version over the English one.
Well, enough about my digression over the film’s language. I just found this aspect of the film’s production quite interesting. Regardless of the tongue spoken in the movie, directors Joachim Ronning and Espen Sandberg have produced a truly awesome and inspiring film which recreates the amazing story of Thor Heyerdal’s legendary voyage from South America to the Polynesian islands. In 1947, Heyerdal (Pal Sverre Hagen) wanted to prove that native South American people traveled to Polynesia. To prove this idea, he and his crew build a balsa wood raft similar to one the natives would have used and sail 4.300 miles across the Pacific Ocean from Peru. The perilous journey proves to be a test of endurance and tenacity as Heyerdal and his crew experiences some harsh conditions and challenges presented by the elements and the ocean.
Written by Petter Skavlan and Alan Scott, Kon-Tiki is a gorgeous and incredible reenactment of an amazing true story. Directors Ronning and Sandberg, their cinematographer Geir Hartly Andreassen and editors Per-Erik Eriksen and Martin Stoltz all do outstanding work. The only way these talented filmmakers could have topped their work is if they had shot the film on IMAX 3D cameras. The screenplay works well in developing most of the characters and the story, though the movie does drag in a few scenes. This doesn’t happen very often, however. The movie successfully engages its audience and takes them on this exciting, frightening and thrilling journey. Audience members highly susceptible to sea sickness may have trouble watching, because it truly feels close to being out on the sea with the crew.
In addition to Hagen who portrays the stubborn and determined Heyerdal, the film also features a superb cast including Anders Baasmo Christiansen, Tobias Santelman, Gustav Skarsgard, Odd Magnus Williamson, and Jacob Oftebro. Despite my mixed feelings regarding the English version of the movie, I have to give these actors serious props for speaking English fairly clearly. In this particular film, the language never distracts, as the story and characters are so well portrayed that it is easy to forget this aesthetic choice.
With gorgeous visuals and marvelous storytelling, Kon-Tiki is definitely a no-brainer for film connoisseurs who enjoy incredible true stories. I must highly recommend catching this while it plays in theaters because only an enormous cinema screen will do this beautiful work of art the justice it deserves. I’m sure it will look lovely on a large flat screen TV, but a movie like this is what the theater experience is all about.