In the Heart of the Sea (2015): Film Review


Oscar-winner Ron Howard’s (Apollo 13, A Beautiful Mind) ‘In The Heart Of The Sea‘ Starring Chris Hemsworth, Tom Holland, and Benjamin Walker is certainly watchable as it translates the retelling of a real-life story that inspired Herman Melville’s classic “Moby Dick.”

Set in 1820, the film In the Heart of the Sea follows the crew of the whaling ship Essex that was attacked by something that no one could believe but only those who survived to live through the harrowing tale over and over again. The vessel was assaulted by a mammoth whale that not only wanted to destroy the hunter but also with an almost human sense of vengeance.

The real-life maritime disaster is one of its kind to date. The most part of the story was not just the dramatic journey of the Essex rather the struggle of the surviving crew members who were pushed to their limits and forced to do the unthinkable for survival. They not only brave storms and those unbearable winter nights, but also face the days with starvation, panic, and despair.

‘In the Heart of the Sea’ is no doubt a classic tale of survival but somehow it also illuminates the consequences human is going to face as a result of their atrocities against nature. This particular message may not come forth in this film directly, but somehow it is inscribed in the subtext.

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Yet, as far as filmmaking is concerned, I must appreciate the effort of the director for his smart direction in storytelling but somehow the film lacks cinematography, probably because of the overuse of CGI. If hunting at any cost was the motive of the Essex crew, the onscreen barbarity was certainly justified.

From an audience’s point of view, I did not see it as a survival story, but as the heroic act of a whale who fought back to save its own race from those desirous humans. I would like to believe this as a true story where a vengeful huge sperm whale almost killed an entire group of hunters who were after their greed and obsession to conquer all.

So, in the end, did director Howard achieve what he desired? Partially, yes by successfully depicting a wave-riding sea adventure. But as far as human morality, greed, vengeance, desire, or even the sense of life and death is concerned, I don’t think ‘In the Heart of the Sea’ has attained these all. It lacks the portrayal of the danger between life and death. While it shows us the question of morality in the end, only after the unfortunate whales are harpooned and slaughtered.

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As far as performance is concerned, Chris Hemsworth (The Avengers, Rush) as the vessel’s veteran first mate Owen leads with a promising performance but not on par with the earlier magic he displayed in Howard’s last film, Rush. Nevertheless, the film is pretty enjoyable if you are looking for a whale tale, if not a ‘Moby Dick’ recreation.

Tom Holland AS Thomas Nickerson, COURTESY OF WARNER BROS.
Tom Holland AS Thomas Nickerson, COURTESY OF WARNER BROS.

Genres: Action, Adventure, Drama
Starring: Chris Hemsworth, Benjamin Walker, Cillian Murphy, Ben Whishaw, Tom Holland, Brendan Gleeson, Jordi Molla
Directed by: Ron Howard
Released Date/Year: December 11, 2015

Movie Trivia

The cast of the film In the Heart of the Sea worked their way down to eating just 500-600 calories a day to lose weight. Of course, this was done under the supervision of a nutritionist, so that they could achieve the starved physicality of the characters. Just before the release, Chris Hemsworth had tweeted a picture of himself which was almost unrecognizable with a very thin body, way away from his usual muscular frames. [Related post]

Where to watch "In the Heart of the Sea" (2015)
A full-time movie geek and part time e-learning professional. He loves to read, write and discuss in length about cinema and the art of filmmaking.

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