Old-school ad­ven­ture on high seas

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - FIL REVIEWS - TARA BRADY

KON-TIKI Di­rected by Joachim Røn­ning and Espen Sand­berg. Star­ring Pål Sverre Val­heim Ha­gen, An­ders Baasmo Chris­tiansen, Odd-Mag­nus Wil­liamson, Agnes Kit­telsen, Gustaf Skars­gård, Jakob Ofte­bro, To­bias San­tel­mann. Club, limited re­lease, 114 min In 1947, the Nor­we­gian ex­plorer Thor Hey­er­dahl led a 6,900km ex­pe­di­tion across the Pa­cific Ocean from South Amer­ica to the Poly­ne­sian is­lands. In con­trast to pre­vail­ing ethno­graphic the­o­ries of the time, the ad­ven­turer be­lieved that peo­ple from South Amer­ica could have set­tled Poly­ne­sia in the pre-Columbian era. In or­der to prove this the­ory, his ves­sel, the Kon-Tiki, was con­structed from in­dige­nous Peru­vian balsa wood in a style recorded by il­lus­tra­tions by Span­ish con­quis­ta­dores.

This post-war ex­pe­di­tion would cap­ture the pub­lic imag­i­na­tion and would spawn sev­eral best­selling books and an Academy Award-win­ning doc­u­men­tary. And now it’s a lovely, rugged, yet pol­ished, drama.

The cast and crew be­hind Kon-Tiki took the trou­ble to simultaneously shoot two al­ter­na­tive ver­sions of the film: one in Nor­we­gian, one in English. The ef­fect is odd.

There is oc­ca­sion­ally some­thing equiv­o­cal and halt­ing about this new(ish) drama­ti­sa­tion of Thor Hey­er­dahl’s fa­mous ex­pe­di­tion. But it’s far more baf­fling to con­sider that, de­spite the English lan­guage cut, it has taken more than two years for Kon-Tiki to se­cure a re­lease in the UK and Ire­land.

Per­haps the devil is in the some­times-dodgy de­tails. Rather frus­trat­ingly, the film fea­tures cer­tain glar­ing his­tor­i­cal in­ac­cu­ra­cies, most no­tably the un­for­tu­nate

Pål Sverre Val­heim Ha­gen as Thor Hey­er­dahl

cast­ing of Thai ex­tras in place of Poly­ne­sians. But it re­mains an aes­thetic tri­umph: its open sea scenes were gen­uinely shot in the open seas. The mostly Mal­tese skies are exquisitely azure. The pe­riod de­tails – cos­tume, equip­ment, dé­cor – are post­card per­fect, even when rep­re­sen­ta­tions of the six-man crew are tainted by dra­matic li­cense.

It is, more­over, the kind of good-look­ing, classy ad­ven­ture pic­ture that is sel­dom sighted in the cin­ema th­ese days. They’ve even got a par­rot.

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