“In the Heart of the Sea” tells the story of the whaling ship Essex which sank in the Pacific Ocean after an attack by a sperm whale. The film, directed by Ron Howard, is told through flashbacks during an interview between “Moby Dick” author Herman Melville (Whishaw) and survivor Tom Nickerson (Gleeson).
As the movie gets into the final voyage of the Essex, the audience is shown that First Mate Owen Chase (Hemsworth) was originally supposed to captain the ship. However, he was demoted when the position was given to George Pollard (Walker) because of the family name. This created tension aboard the ship that was already in dangerous waters with the whale.
The story of the Essex is in fact an interesting one and the movie does show all the excitement of sailing the oceans, such as navigating through the sea, pushing a ship through a storm and dealing with leaks. The problems with Howard’s latest film, though, is that there isn’t enough here to really make things all that interesting.
The characters are quite bland, some segments of the movie drag on too long and the movie piggybacks too much off of Moby Dick itself. There are the scenes where Melville is shown interviewing the survivor and writing the first page of his story, it puts too much emphasis on the work of fiction instead of spending more time telling the story of what actually happened.
Using this storytelling method also means that the movie leans too heavily on narration to explain things and hold the hand of the audience to make sure everyone gets the point that’s trying to be made. It’s reminiscent of this year’s “The Walk” which also had a narration that drags it down.
In the film Pollard is portrayed as the rich man who always demands order while Chase is made to appear as the swashbuckling confident hero. The stereotypical characters are just put on too thick in the movie and the rest of the characters are unmemorable which make things even less engaging.
The performances in the film were somewhat hit or miss. Hemsworth, for example, seemed to have a lot of trouble nailing the accent he was going for, but still had some solid scenes. Also, despite my dislike of including the narration, I still felt Gleeson was strong in a few moments.
The visuals of the movie are probably the best parts. Howard and his crew really did an outstanding job bringing the era to life. The ship looks real and watching it launch is exciting. The massiveness of the whales, especially the behemoth that attacks, is on full display. Even the make-up of the characters when they are stranded is well done. The only minor complaint would be the background looks a bit too computer generated sometimes.
“In the Heart of the Sea” does have some positives thanks mainly to its visuals.
Unfortunately, much of the movie just isn’t engaging. The characters are dull and the film just gets overloaded with narration and “Moby Dick” references. 2 out of 5.