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Dan's Review: "In The Heart of the Sea" a great adventure

Dec 11, 2015 01:17AM ● Published by Dan Metcalf

Chris Hemsworth and Benjamin Walker in In the Heart of the Sea - © 2015 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.

In The Heart of the Sea (Warner Bros.)

Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of action and peril, brief startling violence, and thematic material.

Starring Chris Hemsworth, Benjamin Walker, Cillian Murphy, Tom Holland, Ben Whishaw, Brendan Gleeson, Michelle Fairley, Gary Beadle,  Frank Dillane, Charlotte Riley, Donald Sumpter, Brooke Dimmock, Jamie Sives.

Written by Charles Leavitt, Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver, based on the book by Nathaniel Philbrick.

Directed by Ron Howard.

GRADE: B+

REVIEW:

It’s a whale of a tale, and who knew it was (mostly) true? I’m referring to the story of a great white whale that tormented whalers in the early 19th Century. It’s not Moby Dick, but In The Heart of the Sea, a movie based on true story of the doomed S.S. Essex that inspired Herman Melville to write his signature novel. Ron Howard directs it.

The story of the Essex is told through recollections of Tom Nickerson (Brendan Gleeson) as he is interviewed by Melville (Ben Whishaw). The young Nickerson (Tom Holland) joined the crew as a 14-year-old orphan. The ship is captained by George Pollard (Benjamin Walker) who is often at odds with his first mate Owen Chase (Chris Hemsworth). 

Soon after the ship sails from Nantucket the crew encounters a near-devastating storm. They trudge on, sailing around Cape Horn into the Pacific Ocean along the South American coast in search of storied herds of whales from which they will harvest blubber to make oil. After making a stop in Ecuador, the crew encounters a Spanish captain who warns them of a great “demon” whale that doomed his crew in an area where hundreds of whales are known to swim. Ignoring the Spanish captain’s warning, the men take off in search of great riches.

When they arrive at the area thousands of miles off the coast of South America, the crew discovers the whales and begins to hunt. During their first harpooning run, a great white whale attacks their ship, sinking it. Scrambling to gather all the supplies they can from the wreckage, the crew manages to use their smaller whaling boats to survive on the water for nearly three months. Most of the crew dies along the way, while remaining crew turns to desperate measures in order to survive.

In The Heart of the Sea is a great tale of adventure, survival and coming to terms with mankind’s perceived dominance over nature. Ron Howard’s direction gives the movie an epic feel while allowing for exceptional storytelling through a top-notch cast.

Hemsworth’s accent is a little hard to figure through most of the movie (something between his native Australian and a Bostonian dialect), but his star power and screen presence make up for most deficiencies. The rest of the ensemble compliments Hemsworth and Benjamin Walker, whose “odd couple” paring between their characters provide the heart of the movie’s conflict (and resolution).

The photography and special effects (mostly of the whales) is equally brilliant.

As for telling the truth of the Essex and how it inspired Moby Dick, perhaps there’s a little too much reverence for Melville in the movie, suggesting that the loss of life among the crew is little more than fodder for an aspiring author.

Even so, In The Heart of the Sea is a very good film that tells a very compelling story, worthy of a classic like Moby Dick.


In The Heart of the Sea Trailer

Arts+Entertainment movies movie reviews Maritime Melville Moby Dick
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