In the Heart of the Sea

In The Heart Of The Sea

In Theatres: 
Dec 11, 2015
Running Time: 
121 minutes

In the Heart of the Sea is the film adaptation of the book by the same name and is about the sinking of the whaling ship Essex, which served as the inspiration for the Great American Novel Moby-Dick. It’s a whale of a tale whose plot details can oftentimes be as elusive as the legendary white whale itself; it’s Cast Away meets Master and Commander.


It’s the 1820s and experienced whaler Owen Chase (Chris Hemsworth) has been promised a Captain’s position on his next voyage out to sea, but patriarchy trumps promises in the whale oil business and the honor of commanding the Essex goes to the less experienced George Pollard, Jr. (Benjamin Walker) while Owen is brought on as First Mate. Their voyage together has them collecting 2,000 barrels of whale oil, but their late start in the season has them coming up rather empty so far. Desperate to quickly reach their quota and head home, they head further out to see where they encounter a massive white whale that ends up sinking the Essex. With only their small whaling boats and a few meager supplies the crew struggles to survive out in open sea while the behemoth whale lurks in the deep waters below.


In the Heart of the Sea is actually being told from the perspective of cabin boy Thomas Nickerson’s (Tom Holland) point of view. It’s now decades later and and older Nickerson (Brendan Gleeson) is the last remaining survivor of the Essex, and he is telling his story to Herman Melville (Ben Whishaw), who will go on to turn it into the story that would become Moby-Dick. It’s all to help create the illusion that what you’re watching may or may not be the truth. Yes, the Essex was indeed a real whaling ship that sunk in 1820 after being attacked by a sperm whale, but how big was this whale exactly? No one truly knows.


Perception has always been a central theme of the novel, and it rings true for the film as well. The white whale is the solution and cause to all of Chase’s problems. His initial greed and obsession with killing the whale and collecting its precious oil causes it to attack and sink the ship. The whale then follows the survivors, as if to taunt them with its ever looming presence. It represents the raw force of nature in a physical form, and it’s absolutely menacing.


Visually, the white whale is the best looking thing of In the Heart of the Sea. I personally wasn’t a fan of the cinematography. There are way too many zoomed in moments of random and mundane tasks like writing in ink or hoisting a sail. Also, why did Ron Howard feel the need to have something in the foreground of so many shots? There’s no point in watching someone behind frosted glass unless you’re trying to hide something. The first half of the film is too chaotic and the 3D effects only intensify them messiness of it all. The second half, after the crew becomes stranded at sea, was much better however.


In the Heart of the Sea is too big for its own good. It’s a grandiose film that captures some decent performances from its cast but doesn’t live up to the white whale it’s chasing. You’re better off reading the book.

Matt Rodriguez
Review by Matt Rodriguez
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