Directors: Joachim Rønning, Espen Sandberg
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Film Pulse Score: 5/10
At first glance, dream-hard idealism is not only the subject of this film, but also the production value, with its annoyingly smooth cinematography and perfectly constructed characters. Under normal circumstances this would be a compliment, but in this film I am convinced it is a weakness. Small choices are successful in this film (like the crab character or post-life saving bonds that occur), but choices of a large, sweeping variety (say it with me, sin-uh-ma-TOG-rafi) feel pre-programed and punched in, the way a Hollywood film does when it doesn’t have time to hire creative thinkers but wants a finished look. In a filmic portrait of the man who proved that Polynesia was settled from the East by Peruvians, rather than the West by Asians. This distinction was a laughable idea before being proved by Thor Heyerdahl in 1947 when he sailed, using a handmade balsa raft, 4,300 miles from Peru to Polynesia, in order to back up his previous 10 years of research and become published.
Directors Joachim Rønning, Espen Sandberg, and Director of Cinematography Geir Hartly Andreassen have assembled a picture that even in its darkest moments resembles a fantasy, rather than a historical, voyage. The effortlessness with which the camera glides around the subjects in this film absolutely distracts from the films content, as we are kept safe in our seats, without a real threat of any kind breaching the fourth wall and getting its feet wet with our attention. No, this film is far more like a ride at Disneyland than a heroic portrayal of a dangerous journey at sea with only hope as a guide. Even in the heights of the film, we still know how the story will end. Midpoint (or later, timing is strange) in the film, we feel the tension mount, and we witness some ‘Survivo’r-esque behavior as mates begin to doubt each other. The sharks and the blood help to get our heart rates going for a second. However, this sliver of tension barely succeeds in gripping our full attention because all too quickly, it is released. Followed by a relieving success by calculating that finally, after a bit of bad navigating, they are are on the right track, we are saved from even approaching tension for the rest of the entire film.
This film is not, I repeat, IS NOT about an expedition at sea. Don’t let the visuals fool you. If it was, we would have some feeling of exhaustion at the end of the film, some sense of what it means to be a labored sea-men living through the fight for their lives. We would have a sense of adventure on our breath. We couldn’t, however, be further from those feelings. This film is actually about being right, about correcting history’s assumptions and living in the light of that discovery. Unfortunately for us, we know nothing about the character except that he is stubbornly attached to his theory, and that he doesn’t know how to swim. If anything about this film attempted to portray a more humanistic hero, we might actually have joined in the satisfaction with him. Instead, even as the outro rolls, with its re-enacted 8mm film shots of the characters dancing in Polynesia (supposedly based on real footage, would have loved to see that) we have a sense that we aren’t sure if this story really happened, or fi the director just would love us to believe so. As far as the way in which it took place, the verdict is still out on that one.