In the Heart of the Sea

by | Dec 13, 2015 | 0 comments

A Film that Isn’t Able to Transition Well from the Calm to Action Scenes

19th century sailing movies have been somewhat antiquated; there really are only two modern examples I can think of: the Disney franchise Pirates of the Caribbean and Peter Weir’s Master & Commander. However, now director Ron Howard has tried to push into the genre with In the Heart of the Sea; however, he confuses the tone of his film with an unclear blend of Pirates and M&C.

In the Heart of the Sea is the story of how a real life event inspired the famous novel “Moby Dick.” The film starts out with the young author Herman Melville in 1850 (Ben Wishaw) who pays a visit to a man named Thomas Nickerson (Brendan Gleeson) in Nantucket, Massachusetts. Thomas is a drunk and lives off of the boarding house that is run by his wife (Michelle Fairley). Melville has found out that Thomas was one of the survivors of the unfortunate ship: the Essex. As Thomas begins to tell his story, we jump 30 years in the past. There we meet Owen Chase (Chris Hemsworth), an experienced first mate that wants to become captain in order to provide for his pregnant wife (Charlotte Riley). Chase is assigned to the Essex, who has a rookie captain, George Pollard (Benjamin Walker), who has been placed atop such a whaling expedition thanks to his wealthy family’ connections. The crew makes out to sea and after months of unsuccessful hunting, they finally hit the jackpot, 2000 nautical miles from Ecuador’s coast, but with it they also meet a fearless white whale.

The film is well made, but like I said in my introduction, it is split between being two different kinds of film. At points it wants to be the serious and realistic sailing film (like its title wants to indicate), but at other times it becomes to embroiled with action so that it seems to be more like a summer blockbuster. I’m not implying that a film can’t be realistic without having fun action sequences; its more that Howard wasn’t able to transition smoothly between the two tones. The ending of the film was also a bit unsatisfying, with cheesy sendoffs to our characters.

The acting was interesting in this film. It had a notable cast, and there were great individual performances here, but the problem was the chemistry. No one in the movie theatre bought the interactions between any two characters, and it really is all bad luck on the casting director’s part, but it did take toll in the film. The star, Chris Hemsworth does a good enough job playing the charismatic leader, but his terrible American accent and his scenes with his wife, are very weak. Tom Holland, who plays the young Thomas Nickerson was a pleasant surprise, he held back very well; he is slated to play Spider-Man in Marvel’s Cinematic Universe, and I’m looking forward to how he will handle the character. As for the rest of the cast, they also seem weak whenever they have to talk to each other.

The film is a period piece, and the immense budget ($100 million) allowed for a great set and full CGI whales. It was especially enjoyable to see shots from the whale’s point of view as its charging towards the Essex. And while I commend all of these technical aspects, it might seem that Howard became too focused in these aspects and forgot about the actual simplicities needed in a movie (much like what happened to Ridley Scott in Exodus: Gods and Kings).

In the end, while the film has enjoyable sailing and attack sequences, they are badly sewn together. The acting has some notable individual efforts as well, but sadly they never gel together as a team, and that causes for a bipolar film. 








What is your favorite at-sea movie? Let me know in the comments section.

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