Based on Nathan Philbrick’s 2000 novel of the same name, IN THE HEART OF THE SEA is inspired by the true events surrounding the sinking of the whale ship Essex in 1820. One of the sources that Herman Melville drew on in writing the literary classic Moby Dick, director Ron Howard and writer Charle Levitt’s film frames the tale by having his fictional Melville (Ben Whishaw) seek out the last of the Essex survivors in Thomas Nickerson (Brendan Gleeson). Haunted by the voyage, he recounts how he (as a young boy played by future Spider-Man Tom Holland) joined the crew as they sought out the precious cargo of whale oil, used at the time to light the lamps of the world. Experienced first mate Owen Chase (Chris Hemsworth) clashes with greenhorn Captain George Pollard (Benjamin Walker) over the running of the ship, right up until they rammed by a giant sperm whale and the survivors are set adrift for 90 days at sea. An enjoyable, tense and well shot drama, albeit one that seems to over-stay its welcome slightly. It also overplays its hand somewhat by forcing repeated connections with Melville’s story. When it works best is the war of the wills between characters, including the war Gleeson’s aged Nickerson is waging with his own soul. At times, the film goes to some incredibly dark places, and the realities of what it took to survive for three months adrift at sea, which leads to a sense of exhaustion by the end of the two hours. Nevertheless, this is an Old Hollywood epic that might be a little anachronistic, but doesn’t lack in ambition.
2015 | US | Dir: Ron Howard | Writers: Charles Leavitt | Cast: Chris Hemsworth, Benjamin Walker, Cillian Murphy, Tom Holland, Ben Whishaw, Brendan Gleeson | Distributor: Roadshow Films (Australia) | Running time: 122 minutes | Rating:★★★