Moby Dick is considered one of the great American novels. Written by Herman Melville, the book told the tale of a white whale and a whaling captain’s quest to hunt it down, which eventually leads to doom for him and his crew. In the Heart of the Sea tells the tale of how Melville was inspired to pen the classic tale based on true life accounts of one of Maritime’s greatest shipping disasters.
The Story In the Heart of the Sea is based the story of the whaling ship, the Essex which encountered a mammoth sperm whale on their voyage. The encounter would end badly for the crew and the ship as the whale ultimately sunk the vessel, leaving its crew to fend for themselves in the open sea. But that would ultimately only be half the story as the crew kicks into survival mode, ultimately pushing them to the brink of death as they fend off storms, starvation and a creature which seems hell bent on their demise.
What Worked In the Heart of the Sea is visually appealing and Ron Howard manages to weave together a fine story with Melville learning of the fate of the Essex via a retelling by its last surviving crew of the ship. The effects are more than adequate, especially during several key moments of the film as the crew of the Essex faces off a storm and a pod of whales.
What Didn’t The build up to the eventually sighting and encounter with the white whale occurs too quickly. Understandably, the retelling of the story of the Essex through the eyes of one of its crew and the eventual aftermath, is the key point of the film, still it would have served the film better if some effort was put towards the build-up of the creature that would go on to be called ‘Moby Dick’.
Plus Points Fine performances from Chris Hemsworth, Tom Holland, Ben Whishaw, Cillian Murphy and Brendan Gleeson. The effects of the brief but memorable encounter between the Essex and the white whale.
Minus Points The sheer point of the film and its objectives. From the opening credits you aren’t quite sure what the main focus of the film is. Is it one man’s confession to a horrible act, which occurs after a battle with an almost mythical whale or is it the whale itself? Or was it survival or the quest of one man to come to terms with his fate? The end credits provide some closure to all of the above but it leaves you wondering nonetheless.
Conclusion Despite its promising premise and visual storytelling, In the Heart of the Sea doesn’t quite come off as good as it should have been. Nevertheless, it’s not saying that director Ron Howard has delivered a dud in anyway but it does seem that In the Heart of the Sea treads water rather than sail the high seas despite having the excellent source material at hand.