Highly enjoyable, but missing some elements to effectively pull your imagination into the story.
“IN THE HEART OF THE SEA” follows the crew of the Essex, a whaling ship that ventures deep into the uncharted seas and crosses paths with a white whale of mammoth size that sinks their ship leaving the men for dead – the tale that inspired Herman Melville’s ‘Moby Dick’.
Growing up I came across a few literary interpretations of ‘Moby Dick’ and always found fascination in the massive, ship sinking whale. So when news hit the press that Ron Howard was bringing this famous tale to the big-screen I was highly anticipating the adventure coming to life.
“In the Heart of the Sea” is without a doubt a beautiful film. The cinematography by Anthony Dod Mantle was excellent. There were many eye-popping visual moments that capture the massive scope of the wide ocean and the daunting task of hunting the animals the men were in search for. The life of a whaler was also excellently captured as the scenes aboard the Essex pull you up in your seat as the men scurry around the wooden ship across ropes and narrow beams to properly adjust the large sails.
The detail in the ships creation, set-design and cast wardrobes all blend perfectly with the special-effects to fully immerse the viewer into the settings. It conveys the dangers of what these men were trying to accomplish with ease, something I had no doubt Ron Howard would deliver with his directing. With all these efforts taken into crafting a very well polished, visually appealing film, I found it surprising the story was lacking what it was.
The overall scope of the script was well structured, but the characters (for me) were too under-developed. I really never got to know any of the men the story focused on and later when the story-line begins to delve more in to the emotional aspects of being stranded out at sea, I doesn’t quite deliver the dramatic impact. There was no denying the hardships the men went through while stranded on their lifeboats but it could have roused much more of a heart-wrenching element to the film had there been some connection to the characters.
Chris Hemsworth was good, but the thing I notice about him is he has a singular persona to many of his roles. This tendency he has is only amplified when he is given a role without much depth to it, so he instinctively falls back to his habits. Like in this film were at times he was very Thor-esque, and most of the time felt like Hemsworth on a sailing ship, not Owen Chase, first-mate of the Essex.
Brendan Gleeson was very good in his performance of the older Thomas Nickerson, but I was a little disappointed in how he was used in the script. Being used as a virtual narrator for the film was not a a deal breaker and early on it did nicely set-up the parallel story-line of Herman Melville learning the story that would go on to inspire his epic novel. But as it went on his scenes began to be used for simple exposition to tell the audience tidbits of backdrops for the characters. Later they would continue to go on to explain some of the emotions the men felt.
To me these were all things that could have been implemented into the cast performances, thus creating a more riveting tale. Also the routine exposition scenes took up time giving the audience information, that would have eliminated some the lulls the pace of the story-line suffered from. There were some unneeded scenes which took up time that could have been used developing more substance to the script.
Overall however, “In the Heart of the Sea” was a very entertaining film that successfully takes the viewer out on the seas for an adrenaline filled adventure. It just felt like there was some wasted potential in a visually stunning film that could have been award worthy had the script been given more detail. It would have also fared better to abandon the cliche narration dynamic these films often use. The performances are solid for the most part and the action-sequences are perfectly captured to make this film easily worth the time watching.
– Starring –
Chris Hemsworth, Benjamin Walker, Cillian Murphy, Brendan Gleeson, Ben Whishaw, Paul Anderson, Michelle Fairley, Frank Dillane, Joseph Mawle
– Directed By –
Time: 122 min
MPAA Rating: PG-13 (For intense sequences of action and peril, brief startling violence and thematic material)