In the Heart of the Sea Review

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Herman Melville’s “Moby-Dick” is one of the most iconic American novels ever written. Although the true story that inspired “Moby-Dick” is just as awe-inspiring as the book itself. In the Heart of the Sea is an adaptation of Nathaniel Philbrick’s book about the monster whale that attacked the whaling ship Essex in 1820 and inspired Herman Melville’s “Moby-Dick.” But is Ron Howard’s latest film as memorable as his previous films or does the In the Heart of the Sea fall apart and sink?

Considering this is a Ron Howard movie, In the Heart of the Sea is a solid, beautifully detailed film that’s jam-packed with great actors. Unfortunately, the monster CGI whale has more character development than the humans themselves.

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In the Heart of the Sea follows the New England whaling ship Essex that was attacked by a vengeful monster whale. It’s the real-life disaster that would inspire Herman Melville’s Moby-Dick. The ship’s surviving crew is pushed to their limits as they fight to stay alive while stranded in the ocean thousands of miles away from civilization.

Even though the film sold itself as a man vs. beast film, it isn’t that at all. In fact, the whales aren’t even focal point here. Primarily it’s a film about the human will to survive under desperate measures. Also, Ron Howard’s period epic is more of a slow burn type of film instead of a thrilling action extravaganza. This film was made for the patient and insightful: Those who want to watch a story slowly unfold, while being entertained in the process.

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Undeniably, the most thrilling parts of the film are the whale hunting scenes and it is, at times, brutal to watch. It’s a film that creates a very authentic depiction of the booming Nantucket whaling industry and life out at sea. However, as good as the CGI is there’s a clean polish to them which in turn lessens their visceral impact. You’re always aware of the artificiality of the scenes.

With this eclectic cast, it’s a shame that the film’s characters aren’t well drawn out enough to make us feel for them. The characters lack any personality and spark, a big problem for a survival tale. Chris Hemsworth fails to put together the same charismatic character that he portrayed in Howard’s last film, Rush. Cillian Murphy makes a solid impression as the Essex’s second mate and a childhood friend of Owen Chase (Chris Hemsworth). Newly minted Spider-Man, Tom Holland, is an engaging younger version of Brendan Gleeson’s character, Tom Nickerson. Although Benjamin Walker’s character is supposed to shrivel in Hemsworth’s presence, this portrayal diminishes the prospective conflict between Hemsworth and Walker.

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What’s worse is that the film keeps cutting away to the future featuring Ben Whishaw as Melville, who is trying to discover the true story of the Essex from the highly reluctant Thomas Nickerson. Both Whishaw and Gleeson play off each other well, but their scenes do stunt the character development of Hemsworth and crew.

Overall, for all of its storytelling artistry, technical brilliance, and high-seas adventure, In the Heart of the Sea never quite gain its sea legs. The lack of character depth leaves much to be desired with this fantastic cast, and it’s too clean and pristine to have them go through any sense of danger either. Ron Howard’s made some supremely entertaining (and spectacular) films, but this whale tale  isn’t one of them.

Rating: 3/5 atoms
NR 3 Atoms - C

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