Kon-Tiki (2013) Film Review from the 57th Annual BFI London Film Festival (LFF), a movie directed by Joachim Ronning and Espen Sandberg, starring Pal Sverre Vahleim Hagen, Anders Baasmo Christiansen, Gustaf Skarsgard, Odd-Magnus Williamson, Tobias Santelmann, Jakob Oftebro, Agnes Kittelsen, Manuel Cauchi, Richard Trinder, Katika Egres, Stefan Cronwall and Eleanor Burke.
A rousing, beautiful journey, Kon-Tiki truly made me feel as a bold explorer venturing into the unknown and the dangerous. It is a gorgeously shot, sincerely written, inspiringly scored and skilfully directed adventure with a remarkable true story at its core. The stakes, the ambitions and the determination of the characters is high. The film doesn’t reach the emotional heights of other more exceptional films I have seen this year nor does it manage to really conjure up nerve-shredding thrills of All is Lost or Captain Phillips (two other sea-set films) for example. Kon-Tiki however is undeniably one of the most entertaining films released in 2013 both visually and emotionally. Nothing is unbearable in it. The only tears you might shed are those of triumph. See this gem of the Norwegian cinema for its visual magnificence and its inspiring story but do not expect a masterpiece.
The film looks stunning. The colours make every shot alive with energy and passion. We can feel the fiery courage, the ambition and the inspiration boiling inside of Thor (Pal Sverre Vahleim Hagen) through the vastness of the sea, the light rays piercing the ocean surface. The film’s visual style is aimed at what is beautiful and large. It is as if we, the viewers, are constantly forced to stare at the vast and gorgeous unknown-as if we are looking at the dream of Thor that drives him forward. The director duo does great job with the action scenes and the thrilling sequences with the sharks and the storms. The editing is solid, the shots explode with energy and at the end of each of them you will find out that you have run out of breath.
The story teaches us of genuine courage that walks the border of madness. The reason why this is a different type of an adventure film is because it stresses upon the triumph. At some point Kon-Tiki becomes a tale of survival but this is not what the script is about. The script is about the triumphant human spirit and belief and ultimately the film explores the victories much more than the anxiety. There is no anxiety in Thor-even as the reefs, the maelstrom dangers, the sharks and the storms strike, he is still certain that he will make it. This is not a tale about man versus nature so much as it is a story of a man following his dreams and facing his fears. The more emotionally inspiring the film becomes, the more the beauty of the images grows too. There is one shot in which the sailors of the raft look towards the stars and the camera takes us to the very constellations and back to them again. This shot made them look like gods, like masters of the ocean, the only worthy human beings in the universe, who were not afraid of the borders of the world and this is why they were allowed to get so far.
Kon-Tiki is about the courage of an explorer to fulfil his dreams, the will to prove his worth in front of the world and the ambition to change history. The combination of those three magical desires is what builds Thor’s passion. This is an adventure film of the rush of the exploring scientist-the one that is not content with books and borders. What might make you believe that Kon-Tiki is not all that great is the fact that it never really felt as threatening and dangerous as it is triumphant and glorious. Remember that this is not a psychological thriller though. This is a film about hearty determination and the power of human will through which a man forgets about lethal danger and fear.
This Norwegian motion picture lets us glimpse into the boundaries of man’s abilities or more accurately put the limit to which the power of belief might lead us. It is a thoroughly enjoyable, uplifting work, which you would certainly want to experience for at least a second time.