We all know the story of Moby Dick, the allegedly true story of a vengeful, massive white sperm whale that nearly killed an entire vessel of whale fisherman.
Directed by Ron Howard, In the Heart of the Sea tells the back story of Moby Dick. We meet aspiring writer Herman Melville, (Ben Whishaw) who aims to write a lasting piece of literature. This brings him to Tom Nickerson (Brendon Gleeson), a traumatised ex fisherman who was present during the incident at sea. Melville, alongside Tom’s wife (Michelle Fairley from GoT) convinces Nickerson to tell his story.
As the narrative starts, the film takes us back to a few decades earlier, when a Owen Chase (Chris Hemsworth) sets off on a whaling mission with an inexperienced and arrogant captain George Pollard Jr (Benjamin Walker), who is out to prove himself. Unknowingly leading his ship and crew into unknown and dangerous territory.
It all starts off promising but the moment they set off on their voyage the story starts plummeting down in quality. Moments filled with action & human suffering should be gritty and suspenseful but that’s not the case here. They come and go without leaving much of an emotional impact. In fact, these moments border on being dull. Even clashes between the fisherman are predictable and banal.
A lot of the story is absurd and lacks any explanation. Somehow (Spoiler Alert – skip this paragraph if you don’t want to know) 3 row boats appear in perfect condition after they were destroyed by the stalking whale. Which resulted in them washing up shore on a lifeless island, yet within a few minutes, we see the boats which are then used to set sail again. Frustratingly illogical scenarios like this one take up a lot of the film.
There are quite a number of bloody and violent scenes but Howard manages all the unspeakable gore tastefully by leaving most of it to the imagination of the viewers.
The special effects are tawdry and almost laughable at times. The contrast between the cheap looking CGI laced scenes and real ones are impossible to ignore. On a positive note, the choice to show close up shots of whales is wonderful to experience in a movie as it is a technique mostly reserved for documentaries. It also allows the viewers to see the main whale as a character with a soul.
In the Heart of the Sea hosts an impressive cast but most of them are severely underutilised. Especially the brilliant Cillian Murphy, who hardly has any screen time let alone much to work with. While Chris Hemsworth and Benjamin Walker do well, they are not given enough to stretch their acting abilities either.
This movie is mostly for hardcore fans of the talents involved. Otherwise, I would recommend watching this film either on a cheap Tuesday or wait for it to come out on blu ray.
I rate it 4 out of 10 stars.
In the Heart of the Sea is in cinemas now.