The Norwegian-made drama "Kon-Tiki" re-creates with fascinating detail one of the most astonishing true stories of the past century.
It tells of Thor Heyerdahl (Pål Sverre Hagen), the ethnographer who believed that in the fifth century the Polynesian islands were populated by Peruvian sailors who arrived on balsa-wood rafts. He tested his then-radical theory by building such a raft and taking a crew across the Pacific in 1947.
Screenwriter Petter Skavlan focuses on the naysayers who doubted Heyerdahl's theory, before concentrating on the troubles Heyerdahl encountered at sea, from the elements and from his sometimes-doubting crew. Heyerdahl never wavers in his belief in the theory, which makes him a stalwart hero in 20th-century exploration but a rather dull character for a movie.
Directors Joachim Rønning and Espen Sandberg capture the wonders and dangers Heyerdahl's crew found on the ocean. Coming out after "Life of Pi," another survival-at-sea tale, makes the visuals feel less than spectacular.
The movie's American cut is about 20 minutes shorter than the Norwegian version (which was nominated for an Oscar in the foreign-language category); the dialogue scenes also were shot in English for international markets; and there's a hole in the narrative big enough to sail a raft through.
Opens Friday, May 31, at the Broadway Centre Cinemas; rated PG-13 for a disturbing violent sequence; 101 minutes.