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Kon-Tiki: Blu-ray + DVD Combo Pack Review

Kon-Tiki (2012) U.S. movie poster Kon-Tiki

US Theatrical Release: April 26, 2013 (Norwegian Theatrical Release: August 24, 2012) / Running Time: 96 Minutes (English Version), 119 Minutes (Norwegian Version) / Rating: PG-13 (English Version), Not Rated (Norwegian Version)

Directors: Joachim Rønning, Espen Sandberg / Writers: Petter Skavlan (screenplay), Thor Heyerdahl (life)

Cast: Pål Sverre Hagen (Thor Heyerdahl), Anders Baasmo Christiansen (Herman Watzinger), Tobias Santelmann (Knut Haugland), Gustaf Skarsgård (Bengt Danielsson), Odd-Magnus Williamson (Erik Hesselberg), Jakob Oftebro (Torstein Raaby), Agnes Kittelsen (Liv Heyerdahl), Peter Wight (Spinden), Kasper Ameberg Johnsen (Thor Heyerdahl - 6 Yrs)
Kon-Tiki is one of DVDizzy.com's Top 100  Movies of the Half-Decade (2010-2014).Kon-Tiki ranks 88th in our list of the Top 100 Movies of the Half-Decade (2010-2014).

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Thirty-eight feature films were nominated for last February's Academy Awards. One of the most obscure among them was Kon-Tiki, Norway's nominee for Best Foreign Language Film. Competing against Amour (the rare foreign film nominated for Best Picture and other major honors), Kon-Tiki had no chance of winning.
It had even less chance of winning the American public's hearts because by late February, this drama had yet to receive a U.S. theatrical release, which is not a requirement in that category.

As the last two Best Picture winners (Argo, The Artist) and one of their leading runners-up (Hugo) make clear, the Oscars love movies about movies and the men who make them. Kon-Tiki very loosely qualifies as that, bearing the same title as the 1951 Best Documentary Feature winner and dramatizing the circumstances of that production.

Norwegian ethnographer Thor Heyerdahl (Pål Sverre Hagen, Norway's Ryan Gosling, born the very same month!) has an appetite for adventure dating back to his youth. The opening scene shows him as a child bravely leaping from one chunk of ice to another in a largely unfrozen lake to the excitement of his peers. As a young man, he and his wife Liv (Agnes Kittelsen) explore the islands of Polynesia. It is there that he is told of the belief that Peruvians discovered Polynesia, settling from the East. It's a controversial theory that fascinates Thor for an unseen ten years. When we next see him, it's Christmastime 1946 and he is getting rejected by yet another publisher, this time in Brooklyn, New York.

Thor Heyerdahl (Pål Sverre Hagen) instructs the natives not to smile as his wife takes their photograph in 1937 Fatu Hiva. Liv (Agnes Kittelsen) gets a call from her husband as he begins to start his improbable mission from Peru to Polynesia.

The only way Thor thinks he can convince and intrigue the public of his hypothesis is to actually make the 5,000-mile boat voyage across the Pacific Ocean and against its current on nothing more than a basic balsa wood raft. While funding is difficult, Thor manages to put together a crew of six Scandinavian men (and one parrot) on a raft waving Norway's flag. The crew includes Herman (Anders Baasmo Christiansen, Norway's Andy Richter), a recently divorced, 32-year-old engineer/refrigerator salesman who designs the raft and a man (Gustaf Skarsgård) who knows his way around a camera, for a documentary of their journey has some commercial potential.

With none of the fair-haired passengers seasoned in sea travel and the journey mostly resisting the use of modern technology, the raft (whose name, taken from the Polynesian sun god Tiki, gives the film its title) inevitably drifts aimlessly, as it braves sharks, storms, and misdirection. For his crewmates, the expedition is an exciting challenge. For Thor, it is a crusade to validate a theory to which he has devoted a significant portion of his life.

Yes, Kon-Tiki is a case of man vs. the elements, an always interesting battle that typically yields cinematic drama and unpredictability. Perhaps there isn't an abundance of the latter here if you know the earlier Kon-Tiki film or about Heyerdahl's celebrated life, but I doubt the average viewer will be familiar with either of those things.

It could be any number of things raising the concern of Thor Heyerdahl (Pål Sverre Hagen) aboard the Kon-Tiki.

Before loading a menu, The Weinstein Company's Blu-ray Disc asks if you'd like the English or Norwegian version. It's not talking about the menu text, which is English either way, but the movie's audio.
That in itself is unusual, because foreign films like this tend to be treated like art and no English dub offered. It's also unusual because the movie is already pretty bilingual, having a decent amount of its dialogue presented in English for authenticity's sake (but not enough to disqualify it for Best Foreign Language Film contention). However, Kon-Tiki was filmed twice concurrently, once in the mixture of languages and once almost entirely in English.

Not just unusual but downright shocking is the fact that the English version is a substantially abbreviated alternate cut. Now, the Weinsteins have a reputation for editing imports that dates back to their Miramax days, but they generally don't do that sort of thing to films of prestige. They've apparently made an exception here, though. The English language edit runs 96 minutes, exactly 23 minutes shorter than the version originally released to Norwegian theaters (where it was a massive hit) and nominated for the Oscar. Strangely, that Norwegian version, which I chose for my primary viewing, isn't especially long or at all slow. It's easy to guess where trims could be made and scanning it seemed to confirm mine. But one questions the value of such an exercise. Further confusing things is the fact that American movie theater sites and reviews assigned a runtime of 101-102 minutes to Kon-Tiki, somewhere in between the two cuts offered here.

Thankfully, though the case doesn't specify it in any way, the two edits of the film are presented side-by-side on the Blu-ray Disc of Weinstein and Anchor Bay's Blu-ray + DVD Combo Pack and you are even subtly encouraged to choose the "Academy Award-nominated Norwegian Language Version." Unfortunately, the same courtesy is not extended to the set's DVD (the same one sold separately), which only offers the 96-minute English language cut. At least there is a legitimate excuse, as the disc is filled near dual-layered capacity.

Kon-Tiki: Blu-ray + DVD Combo Pack cover art -- click to buy from Amazon.com Blu-ray & DVD Details

2.40:1 Widescreen (DVD Anamorphic)
Blu-ray: 5.1 DTS-HD MA (Norwegian), 5.1 DTS-HD MA (English)
DVD: Dolby Digital 5.1 (English)
Subtitles: English for Hearing Impaired, Spanish; BD's Norwegian Version: English
Not Closed Captioned; Extras Subtitled in English
Release Date: August 27, 2013
Two single-sided, dual-layered discs (BD-50 & DVD-9)
Suggested Retail Price: $29.99 / Blue Keepcase
Also available as standalone DVD ($24.98 SRP) and Amazon Instant Video


Kon-Tiki boasts spectacular picture and sound on Blu-ray. The 2.40:1 widescreen visuals are everything you want them to be: sharp, spotless, vibrant, and highly cinematic. The 5.1 Norwegian DTS-HD master audio is no slouch either, grabbing notice with its tasteful and effective use of the entire soundfield. The Norwegian version's subtitles are the burned-in variety, but are clean, sharp, always legible, and never subjected to any artifacting.

For no obvious reason, Maria Menounos hosts "Kon-Tiki: The Incredible True Story." VFX Breakdowns dissect the film's use of visual effects, as in this shark-wrestling scene.


Each disc contains two bonus features, in standard definition regardless of format.

"Kon-Tiki: The Incredible True Story" (25:29), is not Thor Heyerdahl's 1951 documentary (which would seem to be a licensing no-brainer), but an American making-of featurette hosted by "Extra"'s Maria Menounos. It has the feel of a TV special of yore. Complementing and somewhat overshadowing the filmmaker remarks (all in English),

we hear from Matt Lauer, who confesses a longtime attachment to the true story. Besides the typical film excerpts (of the English language version, of course) and some behind-the-scenes footage, there's also coverage of a promotional New York raft exhibit timed to the April U.S. theatrical release.

What the disc calls "Visual Effects Featurette" (9:25) is more accurately titled onscreen "VFX Breakdowns." Set to dramatic score excerpts, this feature simply takes shots from the movie and reveals the numerous layers of digital illusions added to them. Even someone familiar with movie magic should find some of the subtle, seamless tricks dissected a bit eye-opening.

The disc opens with menu-inaccessible trailers for Silver Linings Playbook (which, as always, is curiously SD on Blu-ray), Django Unchained, and Lee Daniels' The Butler before the director's name was mandatorily added to the title (priceless collector's item!). Sadly but unsurprisingly, neither a Norwegian nor an American trailer for Kon-Tiki itself is supplied.

Each disc uses a standard, scored montage of screen-filling clips for its menu. Weinstein Blu-rays remain oddly adamant about not letting you bookmark the film, resume playback, or instantly jump to the main menu.

There are no inserts in the standard blue keepcase, which places the silver DVD and full-color Blu-ray on opposite sides.

If all goes according to plan, giant waves will lift the raft Kon-Tiki over a treacherous wall of coral and bring them right up to Polynesian islands.


Though it doesn't necessarily shatter the mold of inspirational true stories, Norway's Kon-Tiki is well-made, instantly appealing, and consistently engaging. Its triumph of the human spirit is a pleasant contrast to last year's celebrated European films that about dismemberment, deterioration, and disability. This is a film that will appeal to the adventurer inside all of us, even those like me in whom that side is deeply buried.

I highly recommend this film and approve of the Blu-ray's delightful picture and sound quality. It's unfortunate that DVD viewers do not get to choose a version and are left with the shorter English cut that I would guess is inferior. But if we think of the DVD as purely a bonus feature of this combo pack, and one rarely extended to small independent and foreign films, then that complaint does little to mar this otherwise commendable set.

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Reviewed August 21, 2013.

Text copyright 2013 DVDizzy.com. Images copyright 2012-13 The Weinstein Company, Recorded Picture Company, Nordisk Film Production, DCM Productions,
2013 The Weinstein Company Home Entertainment and Anchor Bay Entertainment. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.