“Kon-Tiki,” a movie that re-creates Thor Heyerdahl’s famous 1947 crossing of the Pacific on a balsa-wood raft, is caught halfway between a Boy’s Own Adventure and a character study of a charming monomaniac. Pål Sverre Hagen, who plays Heyerdahl, is tall, trim, and impossibly blond, and he has penetrating blue eyes that almost — but not quite — shade into madness. If they’d gone all the way, it might have made for a more interesting movie: “Tintin Goes Bananas.”
The movie we’ve got is rousing and beautiful to look at and undercut by compromises onscreen and off. For one thing, this Norwegian production (nominated for a best foreign language film Oscar that it rightly lost to “Amour”) was shot twice, once in Heyerdahl’s native tongue and once in English, and it’s the latter that’s getting released here, in a version 17 minutes shorter than the Norwegian cut. The actors’ English is crisp but stiff, and there are moments you can sense the missing footage like a phantom limb.