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Film / Kon Tiki 2012

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Kon-Tiki is a 2012 film directed by Joachim Rønning and Espen Sandberg.

It is a dramatization of Thor Heyerdahl's Real Life voyage aboard the wooden raft Kon-Tiki in 1947. Heyerdahl is an explorer and ethnographer who, with his wife Viv, had spent time on the island of Fatu Hiva in the Marquesas in the 1930s. Heyerdahl and Viv settle down and have two sons, but he continues to have the itch for adventure.

He also has a theory. While contemporary theory held that the islands of the South Pacific were settled over the centuries by people traveling east from the Asian mainland, Heyerdahl believes that the islands of the southeast Pacific were settled by people traveling west from the South American mainland, using prevailing ocean currents. Heyerdahl sets out to prove it by making a journey in a balsa wood raft similar to what would have been available to South American natives 1,500 years earlier. After recruiting four fellow Scandinavians to make the journey with him, Heyerdahl sets off on a 5,000-mile journey on a raft across the open ocean.


For Heyerdahl's own documentary of the voyage, see Kon-Tiki. In Real Life, while Heyerdahl proved the voyage was possible, further research and DNA analysis has only strengthened the hypothesis that the South Pacific was settled by people traveling east from Asia.


  • Age Cut: See Match Cut below.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Heyerdahl triumphantly makes landfall in the islands of eastern Polynesia. But his wife, who becomes convinced that his wanderlust and urge to explore mean that he'll never be a husband and father, divorces him.
  • Call-Back: A crab stows away with the raft on the whole 5,000 mile voyage. When they finally beach at Rarioa atoll, we see the crab scuttling away into the water.
  • "Dear John" Letter: Heyerdahl makes landfall only to find that his wife had a letter put in the raft for him, in which she congratulates him and then tells him she is getting a divorce.
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  • Death by Adaptation: Lorita the parrot decides to sit in the water for a bit and is promptly eaten by a shark. In Real Life Lorita simply flew away after a storm, never seen again by the crew.
  • Experimental Archeology: Heyerdahl's idea, to prove that ancient Peruvians could have settled the islands of the South Pacific by setting out on a boat just like they would have built.
  • Intro Dump: Thor introduces both Helmut and the audience to Erik, Torstein, and Knut, the other members of his crew.
  • Married to the Job: Thor, to research and exploration, eventually causing the breakup of his marriage.
  • Match Cut: From young Thor's face looking forward as his mother tells him to be more careful, to adult Thor on Fatu Hiva getting his picture taken.
  • A Minor Kidroduction: Also serving as an Establishing Character Moment. The opening scene finds Thor as a boy, recklessly jumping onto some floating ice to retrieve an ice saw, only to fall in and have to be rescued by his buddies.
  • Skinnydipping: Thor and Viv on Fatu Hiva. This idyllic scene is immediately followed by showing them in dire straits, with Viv having an infected wound on her leg.
  • Tempting Fate:
    • Thor and another sailor are sitting outside the little hut when they hear thunder and see lightning on the horizon. When the other guy suggests they wake up the others, Thor says "Nah. It's just some rain. Let them sleep." Cut to the boat in desperate trouble, being buffeted by a massive rainstorm.
    • Thor really wants to make contact with land via their radio, as drumming up interest in the expedition will make them money. Finally the radio operator reaches someone, and he says "Here comes the money, Thor." At that exact moment Lorita the parrot bites through their antenna, which is a wire being held aloft by a balloon. The antenna floats away.
  • Threatening Shark: They're considered a danger by the crew of the Kon-Tiki. One scene has the crew foolishly catch and kill a shark. The blood attracts a lot more sharks. Then Helmut slips and falls into the water, and the crew has to rescue him before he becomes lunch.
  • Vehicle Title: A raft!
  • Voiceover Letter: How we learn the contents of the breakup letter Viv left with the Kon-Tiki, which Thor reads on his arrival.
  • "Where Are They Now?" Epilogue: Recounting the fates of all the characters. Heyerdahl's book makes him famous. Viv divorces him and takes the children to America.
  • Whip Pan: A very slow one from Thor's perspective as he gazes at the horizon. The 360-degree view of nothing but water emphasizes how alone the Kon-Tiki is.

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