Star Rating:


Directors: Espen Sandberg, Joachim Ronning

Actors: Anders Baasmo Christiansen, Pal Sverre Hagen, Gustaf Skarsgard

Release Date: Saturday 30th November 2013

Genre(s): Adventure

Running time: 118 minutes

It has been a while making it to these shores but maybe the belated release of this 2012 drama is down to the current popularity of the new sub-genre: Men On A Raft. Like Life of Pi, All Is Lost, and (the first half of) the upcoming Unbroken, Kon-Tiki’s survival drama is a gripping affair.

Norwegian explorer Thor Heyerdahl (Hagen) finds it hard to convince those in science circles of his theory that the Polynesian Islands were first settled by peoples from South America and not from Asia, as was widely thought in 1946. Using the same type of raft and the same methods his predecessors used over a thousand years ago to make it across the vast Pacific, Thor, once he acquires funding, and his crew of five set out from Peru. But without a motor the prevailing currents take them north, not west, to the maelstrom of the Galapagos…

It might be a Norwegian film but bar the subtitles there’s little here to differ this from a major Hollywood release. It’s certainly structured that way: an opening childhood scenes illustrates Thor’s devil-may-care attitude; there’s the rejection by his peers; the presentation of the insurmountable odds; and there’s the assistance that comes from the unlikeliest of quarters – a fridge salesman (Christiansen) believes in Thor and the mission. Later, the rotting ropes loosen their grip on the balsawood and the raft begins to lose its shape and drift apart… just as tempers flare and the crew’s belief in their captain diminishes.

There’s even a building montage, although the raft assembly is nicely shot through the lens of Thor’s camera (which would be the basis of a documentary that would scoop an Oscar in 1951). This adherence to Hollywood structure might be down to Allan Scott’s (Don’t Look Now, D.A.R.Y.L, The Preacher’s Wife) ‘consultant’ credit under ‘Screenplay by Peter Klavan’.

This isn’t to take from what is a riveting and engaging movie - Kon-Tiki works because it relies on those tried-and-tested principles, and the screenplay does step away from structural expectations by avoiding syrupy bonding scenes or chats about loved ones back home and plans for the future. The slowly rising tension, creeping every so stealthily into the relationships on board, is done with a subtlety uncommon in Hollywood. Then there are the surprising, edge-of-your-seat shark attack and whale sequences.

If you’re looking for more Men On A Raft dramas, Kon-Tiki will more than satisfy.