By Christopher Redmond

Mailed on February 28, 2013

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Dear Klas Jansson
Construction Coordinator

Dear Klas,

It takes a boatload of crazy to build a raft that's supposed to float across the Pacific Ocean. Or is it brilliance?

In 1947, inspired by the legend of Kon-Tiki, Thor Heyerdal put a theory to the test: he believed the Polynesian Islands were inhabited by South Americans and not Asians (as was commonly thought), and therefore sought to recreate the voyage they would have taken to get there. Much like you had to do 65 years later to make this film. I just hope your crew cut a lot more corners.

We're introduced to Heyerdal as a child, and, after a near-death experience belies his willingness to take risks, we catch up with him years later as he is ensconced on the Polynesian Islands doing scientific research. It's a romantic period in his life--one that foreshadows his future obsessions. Soon we're in 1940s New York as he trying in vain to publish his migration theory.

This is an extremely economical narrative that never wastes a frame on tangential elements. The cinematography, set design, and visual effects are meticulous, lending gravitas to a lush and beautiful film.

Once Heyerdal assembles his ragtag crew, we are treated to a view of the vessel Kon-Tiki. Built only with materials that could have been sourced 1000 years ago, Heyerdal's pedantic (and possibly fanatical) attention to historical accuracy provides much of the drama. Will the ropes hold? Will the log base decay? Although the crew brings a radio so that they can report on the voyage, they must accept that help is a world away. It's easy to see why this true story is so popular in Norwegian history.

The visual treatment might be less hallucinatory than this year's other lost-at-sea epic Life of Pi, but the flying fish and phosphorescent deep-sea creatures are just as compelling. These rarely seen natural elements add a wonderful mysticism to the story without ever dragging it too far into the realm of fantasy. The final moments are also sobering and capture the emotional toll of the journey.

In the end, I don't' think I would have trusted the actual raft. But I felt extremely comforted by your recreation.

Floating off,


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