Greetings again from the darkness. Sometimes the dramatization doesn’t quite live up to the real thing. Thor Heyerdahl was a very interesting and interested man … part scientist, part adventurer. We first see him as a fearless 7 year old. As an adult in 1947, his spirit, stubborness and lust for life led him to undertake a 101 day trip aboard a self-built balsa wood raft. Why? Well to prove his theory that Peruvians settled in Polynesia in pre-Columbian times.
The film provides us shots in time as Thor does his research, presents his findings, tries to sell the story, and finally undertakes the “suicide mission” to prove to the world (and National Geographic). On the surface, the trip makes little sense. Thor can’t swim and only one of his crew has any sailing experience. It makes for a thrilling trip and one which Thor actually filmed much of … with the purpose of producing a documentary. The 1951 documentary won the Academy Award and also led to a best selling book.
This latest version, co-directed by Joachim Ronning and Espen Sandberg, was Norway’s nomination for Best Foreign Language film last year (Amour won the category). While the story is fascinating and Thor Heyerdahl is certainly an interesting man, the film just feels a bit lackluster. Pal Sverre Hagen plays Thor and, at times, reminds a bit of Peter O’Toole in Lawrence of Arabia. The film does offer fantastic effects (especially at sea), but we just get teased with the true personalities of his crew. A bit more depth of character would have added an element that elevated this to elite status. Instead, it’s very watchable and will probably inspire you to track down the book or the original documentary.
watch the trailer: