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.
Thomas Nickerson is 14 years old when the story starts. At time of the shipwreck in 1821 he's about 15, 16 years old. The book of Herman Melville is published in 1850, so 29 years after the shipwreck. When Nickerson is telling his story to Melville he should be around 44 years old. In the movie, Nickerson, played by Brendan Gleeson, is not in his forties, but much older, close to his sixties. 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?
[...] See more »
'Moby Dick' is the well known adventure of a whaling ship and its crew, relentlessly hunting the legendary white whale that had been a proverbial thorn in any whaling expedition. But before Herman Melville wrote his most famous piece of work in 1850, the American author had received the inspiration for his classic from a real life whaling expedition thirty years prior. The true story of the Essex and its crew reverberated around the world and had the potential to destroy the whale oil industry at a time when the precious commodity was the 'electricity' of the day. Its use in everyday life was common and was the main source of heat and lighting in the nineteenth century. The hunt for the rich oil saw large numbers of whaling ships spending years at a time out at sea so the bright lights of towns and cities could burn before the introduction of electricity. How far we have all come, even from the recent past.
Ron Howard has always been a bankable Director. He has been at the helm of some truly delightful films in recent memory and has rarely provided the audience with a bad experience. His solid wisdom has enabled him to deliver a film that is concrete without being spectacular. Charles Leavitt's screenplay shadows that of the direction; it provides the opportunity for deep dialogue without ever pushing the boundaries of its cast, leaving the best performance to a CGI generated whale. Howard has been able to create an authentic nineteenth century atmosphere, with rich scenes full of all the wonderment's of a by-gone era but the film on a whole seems to lack an emotional impact that Herman Melville's story was able to achieve. 'Moby Dick' seemed to have an excitable expectation about it where as 'In the Heart of the Sea' failed to deliver any really memorable moments. This is not to say that Ron Howard's film is not watchable, it just has been unable to conjure up anything new.
The narrative focuses on the booming whaling industry out of Nantucket and its heavy reliance on whale oil to provide the energy that society needs to live through their everyday lives. The whaling ship 'Essex' is the pride of the fleet and has been commissioned for a new expedition for the growing need of the priceless liquid. The story is told through the eyes of Thomas Nickerson (Brendan Gleeson), who is the last survivor of the fateful adventure that took place thirty years before. His narration is for the benefit of Herman Melville (Ben Whishaw) who is compelled to write about the story. Nickerson centres his narration around Owen Chase (Chris Hemsworth), the second in command of the Essex and a man that was born to be a whale-man. Chase is respected by his crew and is good enough to be the Captain in his own right but lacks the heritage to demand such a post. George Pollard (Benjamin Walker) is given the task of commanding the Essex and it isn't long before his personality clashes with that of Chase.
Through heavy storms, potential mutiny and misdirection, the Essex and its crew struggle to make the quota of three thousand barrels of oil needed for a successful voyage. With hope quickly turning to doubt, morale is boosted with a story of infinite whale sighting's a thousand miles from land and the chance for the crew to meet the demands of their employers. once the Essex reaches its location they are confronted by a monster that they have never encountered before; a sperm whale with white markings that is one hundred feet long and full of vengeance. It doesn't take a genius to know what happens next but the aftermath leaves both Pollard and Chase with memories that changes the course of their lives.
This is the whales film and the gigantic beast's on screen presence is what the audience wants to see. He makes an absolute mess of the Essex and hauntingly stalks the survivors as they float in small boats in the vastness of the Pacific knowing that they are all at the whale's mercy.
Brendan Gleeson is always good to watch and puts in a solid performance as the older Thomas Nickerson. Ben Whishaw is a star of the future and does credit to his role in a safe performance as the famous Melville. Chris Hemsworth is trying to spread his acting wings by expanding his appeal to the powers that be. The big Aussie hunk is doing his best to become a bankable leading man but the jury is still out as to whether he has the screen presence to successfully become the film star that we all want him to be. He can act but I feel at times that he is left behind by more accomplished craftsmen.
'In the Heart of the Sea' is a curious film. See it once and enjoy what it has to offer but 'Moby Dick' it ain't. The audience does get an insight into the extremities of an industry that was once the life blood of human civilisation. There is a scene that could be confronting to those viewers with a weak stomach as the Essex crew go about extracting the oil from the harmless beasts of the ocean but luckily this is only seen once although vital in the context of the narrative.
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