While this ambitious Norwegian historical adventure sometimes dips into melodrama, it's a riveting, fascinating true story about passion and tenacity. It's also directed with a terrific sense of the open sea by Joachim Ronning and Espen Sandberg, who have now turned their skills to making a Pirates of the Caribbean movie. This film is rather more serious, of course, as it's a recreation of real events that changed the way we understand global migration.
The central figure is Thor Heyerdahl (Pal Hagen Anders), who was obsessed with adventure even as a child in 1920s Norway. By 1937 he's living in Polynesia with his wife Liv (Agnes Kittelsen), noticing clear connections between the islands and South America. But this goes against the conventional wisdom that Polynesia was populated from Asia, and no one will listen to Thor's theory that the residents are actually descendants of the Incas. So he decides to prove it himself, designing a raft out of the traditional materials and planning to set sail from Peru. To do this he needs considerable help, including an engineer (Baasmo Christiansen), a documentary filmmaker (Gustaf Skarsgard) and a crew (Tobias Santelmann, Odd-Magnus Williamson and Jacob Oftebro) who won't give up when the going gets a lot tougher than any of them expect.
The film has a striking attention to period detail, so much so that everything about this project feels seriously authentic. Thankfully, Ronning and Sandberg keep the focus on the characters, and each emerges as a man forced to confront the raw power of nature as well as his own inner resilience. At the centre, Anders plays Heyerdahl as a man who is willing to sacrifice everything to find the truth, including his family and his status in the scientific community. The interaction between these men sometimes feels a bit heightened cinematically, but they are all strong-willed guys with something important to prove. And both their inter-relationships and their bodies are pushed to the brink through bristling clashes and mind-boggling physical challenges. Although as their woolly beards grow out and their clothing falls to rags, they become somewhat difficult to tell apart.
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