Ask any schoolchild in America who Neil Armstrong is and he or she will answer without a moment’s hesitation. Ask them to recite his words from the Apollo 11 mission to the moon, and they will likely reenact the legendary moment with delight, imitated static and all. Armstrong and his fellow crewmembers have inspired countless millions to seek adventure, and will live on as some of the greatest explorers in human history.
Yet nearly 20 years before the 1969 moon landing, another equally momentous voyage took place, which too held the world spellbound as it unfolded and few Americans are even aware of its existence. Perhaps this is because the explorers hailed not from the United States, but from Norway.
What Apollo 11 represents to the U.S., Kon-Tiki signifies for Norway. All Norwegians are raised with the story of the great explorer Thor Heyerdahl and his crew, who risked everything and defied all odds to cross the Pacific Ocean with nothing more than a simple wooden raft called a kon-tiki.
They had no sails, no motor and no chance of rescue should anything go wrong. Like the Peruvian explorers Heyerdahl claimed had reached Polynesia 1500 years before, all the Norwegian sailors had to guide them were the currents and the night sky.
Kon-Tiki finally makes it to the big screen
After nearly 10 years of developmental delays and script rewrites, the stranger-than-fiction story of “Kon-Tiki” has finally been retold on the big screen. Expertly crafted yet realistically told, the film perfectly captures the urgency and poetic beauty of the Norwegian expedition.
Directors Joachim Ronning and Espen Sandberg manage to infuse the film with a feeling of childlike wonder, while maintaining nail-biting tension that will keep the audience anxiously invested in the journey through to the end.
The film was nominated for Best Foreign-Language Film at the Academy Awards this year, though two versions of the film exist: One in English and one in Norwegian (every scene had to be shot twice to do so).
Some may find it distracting to hear the Norwegian characters speaking to each other entirely in accented English, though I did not mind.
Though the content may be a little strong at times, the more marketable English version makes for a perfect family outing and will undoubtedly inspire the littlest ones to start construction on their own rafts in search of adventure.
It is worth noting that, unlike the similarly plotted “Life of Pi“, “Kon-Tiki” was filmed almost entirely at open sea with CGI (Computer Generated Imagery) used only sparingly.
It is also Norway’s most expensive production to date and the result looks as polished and believable as any large-scale Hollywood film. At its core, “Kon-Tiki” is a wonderfully told, real-life story that will please anyone with a sense of adventure. The English version of “Kon-Tiki” hits select American theaters later this week.
Find “Kon-Tiki” in a theater near you here.