Now before going into the review, I must admit that I have a great affinity towards water, and also ultra-long shots. So, In the Heart of the Sea, having both the elements, was bound to please me. A sort of maritime Donner Party, In the Heart of the Sea is a rugged but underwhelmed true-life drama of a cursed 19th century whaling ship, The Essex’s voyage.
This latest entry in the ‘lost at sea’ genre has images more harrowing than anything you saw in Life of Pi or Unbroken. The sight of a boy being sent down the snout of a dead sperm whale to recover precious oil from its insides is just one of them. In the Heart of the Sea, Ron Howard’s film about the supposedly true story that inspired the literary classic Moby Dick, is a robust production that seldom lets up.
A, very inquisitive & young Herman Melville (Ben Whishaw) comes to the once deck boy of the Essex, Thomas Nickerson (Brendan Gleeson), with his life savings, only to hear of the myth that surrounded its last whaling voyage.
In the Heart of the Sea paints a vivid portrait of the crew’s struggle to survive repeated attacks by a giant sperm whale in the western Pacific. Though, if there is one epic survival tale that will prevail during this Christmas season, it will likely be The Revenant rather than this one. Howard employs CGI effectively to convey the sheer size of the beast and the damage from its impact.
The performances of all the actors here are very convincing, and the pain of surviving the attack, rather than dyeing, is visible in their performances. Essex’s second mate, Owen Chase (Chris Hemsworth) displays an unmistakable star quality as he works to keep spirits up and tempers down. Walker (who here bears an uncanny resemblance to a younger Colin Firth), a boy uninspiringly trying to fill a man’s shoes, Cillian Murphy the ever-reliable second mate and Holland the game youngster destined to send the story down through the ages. Whishaw’s Melville comes off as quite pushy and hard-edged in his insistence that grumpy old Nickerson open up to him; charm seems absent from his arsenal of personal attributes.
But what In the Heart of the Sea, doesn’t do quite well is capturing the essence of the tale that Melville told; it’s merely a story of great personal misfortune and tragedy, rather than one that trades in such lofty matters as the defiance of God, personal will and civilisation versus the natural elements, the line between obsession and madness, revenge. In the Heart of the Sea comes off more like a long anecdote.
After, Nickerson completes his account, while leaving he asks the young Melville, of the romours of oil being found under the ground, which Melville confirms. To which Nickerson exclaims, “Oil from the ground! Can you imagine that?”. Well that for me quite summarises the tale and its historical standpoint.
I’m going with three out of five for Ron Howard’s In the Heart of the Sea. It surely is a treat for you, if you are attracted to water and the mysteries it holds.