Jakob Oftebro (left) and Tobias Santelmann make a splash in Kon-Tiki.
KON-TIKI (Joachim Rønning, Espen Sandberg). 102 minutes. Some subtitles. Opens Friday (May 3). For venues and times, see Movies. Rating: NNN
Joachim Rønning and Espen Sandberg follow up their Norwegian box-office smash Max Manus: Man Of War with a somewhat more upbeat story. Kon-Tiki celebrates scientist Thor Heyerdahl's 1947 crossing of the Pacific on a raft made of balsa wood logs.
Heyerdahl spent more than three months at sea in order to prove that Polynesia was originally settled by South American natives who made the same journey on similar rafts.
There's something pleasantly old-fashioned about the earnestness with which Kon-Tiki tells its story. It's like a 50s newsreel: See Heyerdahl's eureka moment in Polynesia! Watch him try to convince the National Geographic Society to fund his expedition! Enjoy the chummy camaraderie between Heyerdahl and his makeshift crew of scientists!
Pål Sverre Hagen, who co-starred in Max Manus, plays Heyerdahl as an utterly single-minded hero driven to prove his theory at any cost. It's a reasonable take, but it kind of kills the potential for actual drama, since his reaction to every challenge is always some variation on "Chill out, I'm right about this."
Rønning and Sandberg play up the dangers of the voyage to generate tension, and several moments at sea are legitimately thrilling. But there's a mechanical feel to Kon-Tiki that keeps it from ever really soaring.
Note: This is the predominantly English-language version of the film, which is some 16 minutes shorter than the cut screened at last fall's Toronto Film Festival.