The following is a review I wrote for Thread, a new publication on the Kapiti Coast in New Zealand. Pick up a copy if you’re in the area, or you can visit their blog version here. Hopefully this will be a somewhat regular thing, so support a really cool new thing!
Amongst the trivia clutter that has seeped into my head over the years, there are historical figures whose names I have been aware of without really knowing precisely who they were. Having a thirst for true adventure tales, unearthing these stories through books or films is like making my own discoveries, and I feel a little surge of excitement, insignificant as it may be compared to the subjects I’m exploring. Thor Heyerdahl is one such figure, and his story, as told in Kon-Tiki, is a wonderful encounter.
Heyerdahl (Pål Sverre Hagen) is a man driven by a ruthless ambition and a desperate quest for validation from the post-war scientific community. After spending a number of years on the idyllic Pacific island of Fatu Hiva with his wife Liv (Agnes Kittelsen), he develops a heretofore preposterous thesis that the settlers of Polynesia came not west from Asia as accepted, but from the east, drifting towards the setting sun from Peru.
As chronicled in Kon-Tiki, Heyerdahl and a motley band of inexperienced but similarly determined accomplices embark on a visionary journey, following a hypothetical path some 5,000 miles across the Pacific to prove the impossible. Kon-Tiki is a considered, old-fashioned adventure yarn, with moments of heart-stopping thrills amongst an examination of one man’s obsession.
Heyerdahl is driven to the brink of sanity in his enterprise, but rather than being a narcissistic portrayal, directors Joachim Rønning and Espen Sandberg show the anguish of the great man, who wrestles with his obligations to the men sharing his raft, the family at home in Norway, and his duty as a scientific explorer right to the nail-biting conclusion. His is a story that deserves its place among Hillary, Scott and Amundsen, and Kon-Tiki is one of the year’s most unexpected pleasures.