Kon Tiki (2012)
Director: Joachim Rønning and Espen Sandberg
Starring: Pål Sverre Hagen, Anders Baasmo Christiansen, Gustaf Skarsgård
Plot: Legendary explorer Thor Heyerdal’s epic 4,300-mile crossing of the Pacific on a balsawood raft in 1947, in an effort to prove that it was possible for South Americans to settle in Polynesia in pre-Colombian times.
A teamed effort from directors Joachim Rønning (Max Manus: Man of War, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales) and Espen Sandberg (Bandidas, Max Manus: Man of War) tell the magnificent true story of the legendary explorer Thor Heyerdal and his crew of 5 men on their journey across the Pacific Ocean in the brilliant movie, Kon Tiki. These two Norwegian directors have produced many of their movies together, being childhood friends who grew up in the same town, Sandefjord (situated just south of Oslo). They will also be collaborating on the new Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales, set to be released in 2017, and based on their history of movies made, it will most certainly be a hit.
Set in 1947, two years after the end of WWII, Kon Tiki follows the epic 100 day journey of six men, with their leader being Thor Heyerdal (played by Pål Sverre Hagen). Unable to find anyone willing to publish his book on the tribe who sailed from Peru to Polynesia until his theory is proven true, Thor sets out to find funding for his expedition – to sail on a remake of the original rafts, using only authentic materials and a crew of 5 men. Meeting Herman Watzinger outside a bar who informed him of how the raft needed to be built in order to stay afloat, he explains his plans to set sail from Peru. Watzinger, who feel that is life is going nowhere, asks to be part of the expedition, and together they fly to Peru to begin their preparations and gather a crew.
However, no one is willing to fund Thor’s journey, at least not until he convinces the Excellency of Peru that his people were the first to set foot on Polynesia. With the funds coming in, Thor gathers his crew and begins preparing for his epic journey, gathering plenty of food supplies and medicine. The team consists of: failed writer Thor Heyerdal, engineer turned refrigerator seller Herman Watzinger (Anders Baasmo Christiansen), resistance fighter Knut Haugland, etmologer and film documenter Bengt Danielsson, radiologist Erik Hesselberg and, finally; Torstein Raaby, radiologist and childhood friend of Thor Heyerdal.
As these men set sail from Peru and are left to their 100 day journey all to themselves, we start to learn more about the individual characters in small and sometimes unexpected scenes. For example, we learn about Knut’s war crimes and how he feels remorse, or Thor’s almost inability to be a true leader until he realises the importance of listening to his crew and their expertise. Of course there are tense scenes of the crew men falling into the water, where we as an audience are unsure if they will survive or not, and incidences of possible “mutiny” due to being stuck on such a small raft with very little to do, but these scenes are ones which should be viewed to be enjoyed, rather than explained in measly words and spoiled in this article.
Thoe Heyedal, played by Pål Sverre Hagen, takes us on a journey exploring the life of the legendary Thor Heyedal and his relationship with the Kon Tiki itself, and how this has impacted his family life. We, as an audience, learn about his wife and two children whom he left behind in Norway in order to make his dreams come true.. Although we only get a small glimpse of his relationship with Liv Heyerdal, through occasional phone calls, we see how she is not the first thing on his mind. However, his character develops throughout the movie, as he slowly stops just “believing in Tiki” (the god worshipped by the original tribe) and starts to listen to his crew members. One such a moment would be Watzinger’s plan to surf over the riff they encounter just before Polynesia, in order to make it to the island in one piece. Hagen plays his role well, adding just the right amount of tension between Thor and Watzinger, which clearly shows the uncertainty he felt earlier on in the expedition when Watzinger expressed concern about the raft potentially breaking.
In addition to this, Anders Baasmo Christiansen’s character (Herman Watzinger) is essentially the least qualified person on board the raft, having no experience at sea and also expressing more concern over the wellbeing of the raft than the others. Christiansen’s role is largely based around facial expression, as his fears are small glimpses shared between him and other members of the crew, as he is well aware that Thor will not listen to his suggestions, as so far they have all been ignored or swept aside. As an audience we understand his borderline paranoia of perhaps dying or being lost at sea, and as such he is the most relatable character for many of us; this is mainly due to his ordinary background (because he was not a fighter during the war), who had never done something as extraordinary as this in his whole life.
The score throughout Kon Tiki perfectly matches the mood and atmosphere of the individual scenes and particularly character development. The slow building orchestral music contributes without taking centre stage, and isn’t so dramatic or forceful as in other movies, adding just the right amount of tension but not taking anything away from the storyline itself.
Kon Tiki is an interesting and exciting movie to watch, being a part of history that not many people are familiar with but an epic feat which should be told again and again. What makes this movie magnificent is not just the fact that it is based on a true story, but the pure cinematic enjoyment of feeling as though you are a part of history yourself. There are no over-the-top American style action scenes nor any dramatic emotional love stories, just necessary information and plots based on true events and those needed to make the movie accessible for everyone, whether the Kon Tiki exploration was something you already knew about or not. With music that really helps to set the scene and gives nothing away, as there is no dramatic build-up of expectation, just sudden and unpredictable development in keeping with the waves and climate of the Pacific Ocean itself. Furthermore, it’s not a hard watch. There are comedic moments mixed in with serious ones, creating varying moods throughout and taking away some of the tension, which helps to create the illusion that there were moments of pure enjoyment aboard the raft, and not just constant concerns of doom and dread hanging over the Kon Tiki crew.
An overall remarkable movie with excellent performances from all the actors involved, each of whom uncannily resemble the original explorers themselves. Short clips have been added to the ending credits and also brief summaries of the crew’s lives after the expedition which certifies this and encourages further attachment to the characters and the movie itself. What is also great about Kon Tiki, is that the movie actually uses the events of the original documentary clips as scenes within the picture itself, making it all the more realistic and relatable.