In the winter of 1820, the New England whaling ship Essex was assaulted by something no one could believe: a whale of mammoth size and will, and an almost human sense of vengeance. The real-life maritime disaster would inspire Herman Melville's Moby-Dick. But that told only half the story. "In the Heart of the Sea" reveals the encounter's harrowing aftermath, as the ship's surviving crew is pushed to their limits and forced to do the unthinkable to stay alive. Braving storms, starvation, panic and despair, the men will call into question their deepest beliefs, from the value of their lives to the morality of their trade, as their captain searches for direction on the open sea and his first mate still seeks to bring the great whale down.
Chris Hemsworth and Tom Holland first film together. See more »
Moby dick is a Sperm Whale. The tail seen is not a Sperm Whale's. See more »
[in his letter]
How does one come to know the unknowable? What faculties must a man possess? Since it was discovered that whale oil could light our cities in ways never achieved before, it created global demand. It has pushed man to venture further and further into the deep blue unknown. We know not its depths, nor the host of creatures that live there. Monsters. Are they real?
[a huge whale passes]
Or do the stories exist only to make us respect the sea's dark secrets?
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Obvious CGI makes it impossible to truly engage with the action
When taking into account the reputation of Herman Melville's novel Moby Dick as one of the Great American Novels, it is surprising that so few directors have taken it upon themselves to adapt the epic tale of man against nature. The most famous and well-respected is John Huston's 1956 effort that starred Gregory Peck as the obsessed Captain Ahab and, dismissing the few straight-to-DVD efforts and TV movies over the past few years, it is really the only one of note. Ron Howard has also decided to side-step Melville's tricky beast in favour of the true story that inspired it, the sinking of the whaling ship Essex.
Almost as if Howard was afraid that the sight of a group of battered, starving sailors drifting would be too boring for the audience to stomach for two hours, the story begins with Melville himself (played by Ben Whishaw) paying a visit to the only remaining survivor of the Essex's doomed voyage, Thomas Nickerson (Brendan Gleeson). After a bit of nagging from his wife (Michelle Fairley) and the promise of whiskey, Nickerson soon begins spilling the tale he has kept bottled up for years, and reveals that it is not just a story of a giant, extremely peeved-off whale, but that of two men - first mate Owen Chase (Chris Hemsworth) and captain George Pollard (Benjamin Walker).
The men sitting behind the desks at the Nantucket whaling company view Chase, despite his impressive record at collecting whale oil, as a 'landsman' - someone born outside of the vast whaling family. Pollard is inexperienced and envious of Chase's reputation and popularity, and there personalities soon clash. Most is viewed through the eyes of the young Nickerson (played by Tom Holland, the new Spider-Man), and just when the two potential father figures reach a mutual understanding and finally discover whales after months at sea, they are rammed by a giant sperm whale and left hundreds of miles from shore with limited food, water and supplies.
You would think that a story so packed with sea-faring adventure and the promise of an unknown monster lurking beneath the surface would be effortlessly thrilling, but sadly In the Heart of the Sea is not. While certainly an overrated director, Ron Howard has made exciting films before, but here the action is so laced with obvious CGI that it makes it impossible to truly engage with the action. The film actually works best during its quieter moments. While peppered with survival-movie clichés and sluggish character development, its well- performed by the (mostly British) cast, particularly Walker, whose character arc pleasantly surprised me, and Holland, who is surely destined to be a star in the future. Still, we wait patiently for the film that does Meville, or the story behind his greatest work, justice.
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