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Review and Trailer for Oscar-Nominated 'Kon-Tiki' - An Enjoyable, Supersized High-Seas Adventure

Photo of Beth Hanna By Beth Hanna | Thompson on Hollywood April 25, 2013 at 12:46PM

Norway's Oscar-nominated Foreign-Language entry, the enjoyably supersized “Kon-Tiki,” follows the real-life adventures of explorer Thor Heyerdahl, who, in 1947, embarked on an eccentric mission across the Pacific Ocean, from Peru to Polynesia, on a wooden raft. His goal was to prove that Polynesia...

Animal rights sensitivity was not a major concern in the late 1940s, and the joyous volition with which the men gut the enemy shark reminded me of a similar scene in a film made in 1956 by Jacques Cousteau and Louis Malle, “The Silent World.” As in that French docudrama, “Kon-Tiki” reveres, respects and revels in wonder at the ocean, but also takes offense to it when the watery depths commit a seeming injustice. It may be the one aspect of “Kon-Tiki” that feels authentically old-fashioned.

Hagen is a genial leading man, with a Ryan Gosling-meets-Peter O’Toole look. He keeps the character charming and adequately absorbing, without really digging into the inner recesses of a mind obsessed by what was arguably a suicide expedition. His eyes sparkle appropriately when he speaks of the Inca sun god who inspires the mission, but he doesn’t tap the underlying insanity needed for such a role: see Gregory Peck’s Captain Ahab or Klaus Kinski’s Aguirre.

No matter.  “Kon-Tiki” aims for dazzling breadth and visual scope, which it achieves, and shoots for depth primarily when filming in the 15-thousand-foot waters the men precariously float upon. What it lacks in character complexity and narrative nuance, it compensates for with booms and thunders of seabound gravitas. Huston, Herzog and even Cousteau and Malle deliver adventures that unsettle us as we watch in awe; "Kon-Tiki" co-directors Joachim Ronning and Espen Sandberg entertain us as we reach for popcorn.

This article is related to: Reviews, AFI, Kon-Tiki, Reviews

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Born and raised in Manhattan, Anne Thompson grew up going to the Thalia and The New Yorker and wound up at grad Cinema Studies at NYU. She worked at United Artists and Film Comment before heading west as that magazine's west coast editor. She wrote for the LA Weekly, Sight and Sound, Empire, The New York Times and Entertainment Weekly before serving as West Coast Editor of Premiere. She wrote for The Washington Post, The London Observer, Wired, More, and Vanity Fair, and did staff stints at The Hollywood Reporter and Variety. She eventually took her blog Thompson on Hollywood to Indiewire. She taught film criticism at USC Critical Studies, and continues to host the fall semester of “Sneak Previews” for UCLA Extension.