IN THE HEART OF THE SEA
Directed by Ron Howard
Starring Chris Hemsworth, Cillian Muprhy, Tom Holland
Set up as a true story behind the true story of the tale that spun one of American literature's most important works, In the Heart of the Sea means well and sits on the verge of being a spectacular adventure. But, failed attempts at drama and an annoying 3D experience make for a movie that's harrowing to watch and overlong to the point of redundant.
Owen Chase (Chris Hemsworth) is a seaman born of a family not in the whaling industry, which immediately limits his job prospects, as pedigree and social class always come first in 19th century boating. Set on the shores of Nantucket, we meet Chase as he attempts to fight for a captain's role, being handed first mate, instead. The actual captain of the ship, George Pollard (Benjamin Walker) is every bit of a spoiled aristocrat without an inch of captain experience. His own insecurities set him up to be a bore of a leader, leaving Chase to earn the respect of the lowlifes and working men aboard the ship. After successfully capturing a sperm whale, the course for their whaling adventure takes a turn when they meet a legendary beast. The giant whale, who destroys everything from their ship to their dignity, would set the course for the story we know as Moby Dick.
Herman Melville (Ben Whishaw), the author of the famous tale, is given the reigns to the book by an aged Tom Nickerson (Brendan Gleeson). Still shattered by the events of the dastardly trip as a young boy (played to scene-stealing intensity by Tom Holland), Nickerson's self-inflicting guilt and emotional drive gives some penance to the over-used antidote of subject telling his/her story to an author. This device does nothing to aid in the actual action of the story, which comes far too late halfway through the second act.
Director Ron Howard deserves some merit for attempting to do something different than he's done before. The film has a clear visual style and a certain panache it should be able to explore. But, the 3D effects get in the way. And, the build of the story allows for a far too slow start to a film that deserves to be more action and intense dealings than it is. When the few crew that survive began looking more corpse-like, we're on the verge of getting an awards-worthy drama. Too bad the overdramatic dialogue and the story construction never allow for a truly captivating experience.
The effects are genuinely great, with the whale being horrifying enough to keep you from ever entering the whaling industry. The performances are blasé, given the talented cast is dealing with a structure problem and a failed dramatic script. Hemsworth gives his all as an amiable leading man. Cillian Murphy isn't given enough material, but chews his few scenes to the best of his abilities. Young Holland shines as the apprentice who musters up enough courage to survive.
In the Heart of the Sea isn't terrible. But, with a cast and crew and story this incredible, we deserved something more.
Runtime: 121 minutes