Latest Review – Kon-Tiki [Soda Pictures]

Kon-Tiki

Director:  Joachim Rønning & Espen Sandberg

Studio: HanWay Films

Distributor: Soda Pictures

Year: 2012

Country: UK | Norway

Genre: Drama | Adventure | Historical | Biopic

Running Time: 111 minutes

Certificate: PG

Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1

Image: Colour

Language: English

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A nominee for both the Best Foreign Language Oscar at the 85th (2012) Academy Awards (losing out to Michael Haneke’s ‘Amour’) and the Golden Globe Award for Best Foreign Language Film at the 70th Golden Globe Awards (marking Norway’s fifth Academy Award-nomination and the first time a Norwegian film has been nominated for both an Oscar and a Golden Globe), Joachim Rønning and Espen Sandberg’s historical-adventure-biopic has been a film I have been anticipating for quite some time. With a budget of 93 million Norwegian Krone (NOK) (roughly around $15 million) Norway’s highest-grossing film of 2012 – and the country’s most expensive production to date – certainly does not disappoint.

A dramatisation of the renowned Norwegian ethnographer and adventurer, Thor Heyerdahl’s Kon-Tiki expedition of 1947 – adapted from both Heyerdahl’s 1948 novel ‘The Kon-Tiki Expedition: By Raft Across the South Seas’ and his 1951 Academy Award-winning (Best Documentary Feature) documentary of the same name (which to this day remains the only Norwegian feature film to have won an Academy Award) – the film follows the six-strong crew’s treacherous 4,300 nautical mile-journey across the Pacific from Peru to Polynesia, on a raft made of balsa-wood logs, in an attempt to prove Heyerdahl’s theory that it was possible for South American travellers to have settled in Polynesia in pre-Columbian times.

There are some alterations to how some of the events presented actually unfolded, as is often required to bestow a greater sense of interest or excitement upon the piece. However, having seen Heyerdahl’s aforementioned documentary, the film proves a visceral, compelling and incredibly authentic dramatisation of events, with the filmmakers’ decision to shoot the ocean scenes on the open waters (as opposed to in the confines of a studio set) fully enhancing the epic scope and the unique challenge faced.

Performances from the central figures are quite excellent and very effectively realised. Led by a superb Pål Sverre Valheim Hagen in the central role of Heyerdahl and supported by a cast featuring Anders Baasmo Christiansen as Herman Watzinger, Gustaf Skarsgård as Bengt Danielsson, Odd-Magnus Williamson as Erik Hesselberg, Tobias Santelmann as Knut Haugland and Jakob Oftebro as Torstein Raaby, the characters are all very well developed and instilled with a significant sense of depth and dimension.

Produced by the Academy Award-winning Jeremy Thomas the film has taken fifteen years from the initial planning stages to its ultimate release. Begun only a few years prior to Heyerdahl’s death in April 2002, it was always his intention to shoot the film in English in order to allow the film to travel further and gain a wider exposure. It is incredibly impressive then to know that the film was shot simultaneously in both Norwegian and English, with the actors often shooting ten takes of each individual scene and alternating between the two languages – a credit to the skill and versatility of the performers. Here is hoping that the film goes on to receive the international acclaim that it ultimately deserves.

Lensed by director of photography Geir Hartly Andreassen, the alluring cinematography is beautifully achieved and perfectly captures the deep, rich oceanic hues and general sense of adventure. The powerful score from Johan Söderqvist, a composer perhaps best known for his work on such films as ‘Let the Right One In’ (2008), ‘In a Better World’ (2010) and the acclaimed Swedish/Danish crime-mystery series, ‘The Bridge’, again perfectly underlines the epic tone of the film.

With its superb blend of arresting visuals, aesthetic quality, intense drama, energy and exceptionally well rendered effects, Joachim Rønning and Espen Sandberg’s film proves a perfect example of the classic ‘boy’s own’ adventure film at its most impressive, and it is really no great surprise that the duo have been snapped up to direct ‘Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales’, the fifth instalment in the blockbuster Pirates of the Caribbean series.

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