Starring: Chris Hemsworth, Benjamin Walker, Cillian Murphy
In 1820 the Essex sails from New England in search of Whales for their oil, but for the crew, including Captain George Pollard (Walker) and First Mate Owen Chase (Hemsworth) it proves to be a harrowing battle for survival after the ship is attacked and destroyed by a whale of mammoth size. The surviving crew are forced to resort to extreme measures in their attempt to survive and their story was the inspiration for the novel Moby Dick.
Hollywood apparently loves Ron Howard, and it is not surprising considering the amount of money some of his films have made, but that love may well have been well and truly tested after the abysmal box office performance of his latest film, especially in the States. They have of course blamed Star Wars, but it is a shame no one went to see In the Heart of the Sea as this old fashioned style yarn is certainly nowhere near a masterpiece, but it is not only immensely enjoyable and good fun, but its visuals make it best seen on the big screen.
Of course it is based on a true story and so the apparent original true story has I am sure been tampered with so that we have a much more neat and tidy narrative for the film. I of course have no idea what has been changed, but the story we are given is certainly nothing that we haven’t seen before and pulls very little surprises. We are of course introduced to the usual generic combination of characters, and we then get the inevitable rivalry between the experienced First Mate who was promised he would be a Captain and the inexperienced Captain who is only there because of his family. Their ensuing rivalry is generic, predictable stuff and pretty much sums up the complete lack of any real in depth characterisation that any character gets. They are all likeable enough, but apart from Hemsworth, Walker, Murphy and Tom Holland it is almost impossible to tell the other crew men apart.
The cast themselves are solid but unspectacular, they all certainly look the part and are convincing enough, but this is partly not their fault as their characters and their respective arcs are extremely generic. Hemsworth certainly puts effort in and physically looks the part, but tends to get out acted when sharing a screen with the more convincing Walker and Murphy. The film’s framed narrative gives us Brendan Gleeson telling the story to Ben Whishaw’s Herman Melville, and though this does allow for further generic storytelling conventions to be used, their scenes are the most interesting in terms of the acting as they are both excellent (as always).
In between the predictable character arcs and big speeches, the main star of the film (and indeed it seems everyone’s focus) is of course the visuals, including the giant Whale, and this is where Howard delivers some stunning sequences. Employing a variation of sweeping shots and extreme close ups that he used so effectively in Rush, these are definitely the films best and most thrilling moments, and are only enhanced by seeing the film on the big screen.
There are some half-hearted attempts at pondering the morality of hunting whales, but this is as lame as the character development itself. There is no denying that In the Heart of the Sea is an enjoyable old fashioned romp of a film with some stunning visual sequences, though ultimately very hollow and forgettable, but is undoubtedly best seen at the cinema.
An enjoyable if forgettable survival romp; In the Heart of the Sea may be extremely forgettable due to its generic storytelling and characterisations, but thanks to some stunning visual sequences is certainly worth catching on the big screen.