Written by: Charles Leavitt, Rick Jaffa, Amanda Silver & Nathaniel Philbrick (Book).
Directed by: Ron Howard.
Starring: Chris Hemsworth, Cillian Murphy, Benjamin Walker.
Run Time: 122 Minutes.
Check out our In The Heart Of The Sea Review below!
The untold true story of the whaling ship Essex from 1820. The crew sets out on a voyage to obtain whale sperm oil and is attacked by an unbelievable mammoth whale which comes to be known as Moby Dick
A Mammoth Tale
Most of us are familiar with Herman Melville’s evergreen classic Moby Dick. Nathaniel Philbrick’s book from 2000 which shares the title of the movie, gives us the untold story of the whale-ship and the facts associated with it, which inspired the fictional work by Melville. The opening scenes, which were rather pointlessly stretched out, take us straight into the mix of things. Herman Melville (Ben Whishaw) is an aspiring writer in search of a masterpiece that can change the course of his life. He pays Thomas Nickerson (Brendan Gleeson) a visit to salvage a memory of epic proportions, who is egged on by his wife (Michelle Fairley) to bring up ghosts of the past. The rest of the story is told as an extensive flashback, bracketed by Nickerson’s storytelling.
In 1820 Nantucket, we find Owen Chase (Chris Hemsworth) who is first mate of The Essex. He was promised captaincy by the funding merchants, but is let down when they appoint Capt. George Pollard (Benjamin Walker) – a spoilt inexperienced sailor born into the industry as opposed to the heuristically advanced Chase. As in every Ron Howard movie, obvious friction is generated between the two of them but that notwithstanding, the crew finds success fairly early. The untimely success is followed by a long spell of dryness, as the crew – which consists of Chase’s best friend Mathew (Cillian Murphy), Pollard’s cousin Coffin (Frank Dillane) and young Nickerson (Tom Holland) – grow weary of their expedition.
During a stopover in Ecuador, they learn of a Spanish ship that was drowned by a colossal whale in the Pacific Ocean – the largest among a family of cetaceans. Enticed by the tale, the crew decides to set sail to find this family, and upon discovering them, are thrust into a battle to protect The Essex and their lives. The rest is a typical Man vs. Nature story, where the crew has to do the unimaginable to survive.
All Hands Ron Deck
Academy Award winning director Ron Howard (Rush, A Beautiful Mind) has a knack for bringing out the best in true stories. But In The Heart Of The Sea might have been a tale too tall for his might. The progression of story is carried out meticulously, creating a spectacle that is superior to most movies based out of the ocean. But character development is poor and we never really end up feeling as connected to the characters as we do in typical survival stories. The point A to B method of storytelling which Howard employs in most of his movies, is something of a rarity nowadays. While it is welcoming with biopics in general, it is nauseating this time.
Writer Charles Leavitt is inconsistent with this gig – some parts of the story are exceptional but others not so much. The process of whaling including the stripping down of the whale & the scenes at the lonely island are brilliant. But on the flipside, the characters aren’t interesting enough as mentioned above. For example, Chase and Mathew supposedly share a relationship where blood couldn’t make them any closer. But you never get an air of that until the last few scenes.
The release date was pushed by 6 months as it was to be a contender at the Oscars. But it would be genuinely surprising if anything other than the cinematography gets a nod. Anthony Dod Mantle has done a ridiculously good job at creating beautiful whale sequences along with the VFX team. One particular shot of the ship burning out in the dark stands out.
Belly Of The Beast
Chris Hemsworth (Thor, Rush) adds a muscular performance to his growing list of versatile roles. But his New England accent is somewhat questionable when you consider the amount of effort he’s put in for this role. He is said to have lost around 30lbs. within a month, all the while continuing the shoot to make the starvation appear gradual. The whole crew was on an intense diet to prepare for their roles.
The two most outstanding performances from a personal viewpoint were by Cillian Murphy (Inception, Batman Begins) as Mathew Joy and Tom Holland (The Impossible, Locke) as the young Nickerson. Murphy’s act was powerful and is easily the character you feel for most whereas Holland, who is only 19, surprises sturdily. Fans of Spider-man will be more eager than ever to see him portray the wall-crawler. Benjamin Walker (Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter) put in an inconsistent display. His performance, which was feeble at first, improved throughout the length of the film.
Brendan Gleeson (Edge of Tomorrow, Troy) slowly disappears into his role as Thomas Nickerson. His storytelling throughout the movie transforms from reluctant to confessional. The remaining cast members all put in strong efforts, including Michelle Fairley (Game Of Thrones, Suits), Frank Dillane (Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince) and Ben Whishaw (Skyfall, Cloud Atlas).
All in all:
Casting aside minor reservations, In The Heart Of The Sea is an epic which is visually superior to most movies this year, and it deserves a watch. Fans either of the genre or of tantalizing imagery will come out with plenty of sequences to admire. But it can be said that the film has nothing new to offer and the positives of the film are just enough to savour it. The timing of the movie is unfortunate as Matt Damon’s The Martian might have been one survival story too many this year.
Watch it if you’re: In the mood for a survival adventure, or just love the waters.