Directors: Joachim Rønning, Espen Sandberg
Cast: Pål Sverre Hagen, Anders Baasmo Christiansen
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Polynesia. Balsa wood. Pre-Columbian settlements. For the average film lover, these are words that inspire less excitment than the phrase “new Pirates of the Caribbean sequel”. But Thor Heyerdahl ‘s real life attempt to cross the Pacific in 1947 makes for a delightfully adventurous romp.
Pål Sverre Hagen plays our lead scientist, a man driven by desperation to hatch his hare-brained scheme – and charismatic enough to convince a crew to accompany him. 4,3000 nautical miles, led by a guy who can’t even swim? Faced with Hagen’s grinning, enthusiastic lead turn, even you’d struggle to say no.
And so Heyerdahl helms a crew of men to prove a then-unpopular theory that the South Sea Islands had been settled by ancient South Americans from thousands of miles to the east. The cast take to the true tale like a duck to water, from loyal sidekick Herman (Anders Baasmo Christiansen) to his more dubious colleagues. Flashbacks to an equally on-form young ensemble make sure the old friendships are convincing.
Petter Skavlan’s script introduces all the obstacles you expect from a lost-at-sea voyage, including sharks, storms and tomato soup mix. But Geir Hartly Andreassen’s cinematography keep things from becoming adrift in convention, filling his frame with dazzling blues and vibrant browns.
Directors Joachim Rønning and Espen Sandberg shoot the whole escapade with zip and verve, chucking everything at the vessel; the weather effects, in particular, are superb. The biopic unfolds like a Hollywood tale – the crew shot the film in both Norwegian and English language to maximise its global appeal – and carries the thrill of a big budget blockbuster in the slowly rising tide of suspicion that their mission will fail. Their fading confidence is echoed by their increasingly messy facial hair; with their blue eyes and youthful faces, it’s like watching Ryan Gosling grow a beard for 90 minutes.
At the heart of it all is the irrepressible Hagen, who smiles as the raft nears the Galapagos maelstrom, with a powerful roar that can be heard 10 miles away. “It will be fine,” he insists with all the drive of a man who died in 1964 attempting to reach the North Pole on skis. “Have faith.” Balsa wood, Polynesians and Pre-Columbian settlements have never seemed so exciting. The fact that Rønning and Sandberg are directing Pirates of the Caribbean 5 should come as no surprise.