Thursday, May 2, 2013

Kon Tiki

This new "Kon Tiki," filmed in English contemporaneously with a Norwegian version that lost the foreign-language Oscar to "Amour," is a gripping adventure yarn and good clean fun for the whole family. Honeymooning with his family in Polynesia, Thor Heyerdahl (Pål Sverre Hagen) becomes convinced that the region was settled not (as was believed) from the East, but from the West. He determines to retrace the voyage, setting out from Peru on a wooden raft with a makeshift crew; everyone from Nat Geo down declines to fund the expedition, and a rah-rah fridge salesman named Herman ends up being his first mate.

I like that the movie doesn't stand on ceremony. It charts its course and embarks on it forthwith. There's a lot of excitement in "Kon Tiki" - the raft encounters everything from whales to blood-smelling sharks to a shell-lined barrier reef - and it's presented simply and without swelling music to underline each peril. There's also a great deal of gallows humor and crisp wit. ("Sure," the videographer says when asked to gyroscope under the surface in search of sharks, "send the Swede!") And the movie's lovely to look at, with skyscapes as beautiful as its crystal blue seas. Here's a seafaring movie with a real appreciation for water - not just on the main but in all its forms (rarely has a waterfall looked as intense and intimidating as one in an early scene here). "Kon Tiki" reminds us of one of the staple pleasures of moviegoing: a simple but amazing story, well told.

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