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Better Late Than Never: 'Kon-Tiki' (2012)


The Guys from {FILM} is a discussion on movies and films from all eras and genres

Better Late Than Never: 'Kon-Tiki' (2012)

Shaun Cordingley

Oscar Nominee, and the most expensive Norwegian film ever produced, Kon-Tiki is one of those historically based films that seemed to completely disappear after it came out (and after failing to claim the Best Foreign Film Oscar). This sumptuously shot, if a little uneven film is, however, completely worth checking out.

I am always a sucker for adventure films, and if those films can be based on a historical adventure, all the more exciting for me..however I have to admit that I knew practically nothing of the story of Kon-Tiki aside from the fact that it was an adventure, and that it was included as an example of great adventures before "Mister and Missus Norris' Ford Popular" sketch on Monty Python's Flying Circus. I can't say that I'm proud of that fact, but here we are.

The Kon-Tiki was an expedition undertaken in 1947 led by Thor Heyerdahl, and a group of Scandinavian men who set out to prove Heyerdahl's theory that Peruvians drifted across the Pacific Ocean on rafts and settled Polynesia. Unable to convince the scientific community of his research, or theory, Heyerdahl and his companions set out to do just that: they built a raft, thanks to some private loans, and the assistance of the United States Army, and drifted across the Pacific Ocean, in 101 days, reaching the Tuamotus safely.

Heyerdahl's book, and the documentary (also called Kon-Tiki) were immensely successful, including an Academy Award in 1951, as well as being credited for inspiring the next generation of explorers after the horrors of World War 2.

The real crew of the Kon-Tiki setting out on their voyage in 1947

The real crew of the Kon-Tiki setting out on their voyage in 1947

Kon-Tiki follows the story of the expedition, from Heyerdahl and his wife researching in the South Pacific, to the formation of the raft, and the drift to the Tuamotus. The cinematography is gorgeous--the light, the ocean, the marine's all captured breathtakingly in shocking, crisp colour. The performances are solid up and down the cast, and there are a few moments of tension, and levity to break up what would largely have been a monotonous journey in real life.

Check out this trailer below:

Note: Kon-Tiki was made in both Norwegian and English (in order to secure international funding) so you may be finding either--for example, the version on Canadian Netflix is in English.

The problems Kon-Tiki does have largely come down to the historical nature of the story: the expedition went really, really well. Aside from a storm (captured excellently in the film), the largest moment of tension comes at the end as the raft needs to try and get beyond a razor-sharp reef (also a great part of the film). The men all got along, and they were largely just executing their jobs on the raft...which does not completely make a riveting film. The filmmakers got themselves into a bit of trouble (essentially needing to formally apologize to the family of the family of Herman Watzinger (an engineer, and stalwart, supportive companion of Heyerdahl on the real expedition) for changing the story a bit in the film to make his character more uncertain of the voyage. The film largely is completely enjoyable, but this is not a yarn by any imagination; just an expertly done film about a less-than-dramatically charged marker of human achievement.

Although there's a ball-out awesome scene with a shark that really injects a bit of 'oh holy crap' into the middle of the voyage.

Kon-Tiki is one of those Oscar Nominated films that probably would have garnered more attention had it not been up against a powerhouse in it's category (eventually losing to, to no one's surprise, the masterpiece that is Amour in the Best Foreign Language Film category for 2012), because it is, at the end of the day, a soundly enjoyable adventure film that I definitely recommend that you check out

It is available, as of May 2016, on Netflix.