In the Heart of the Sea: Film Review

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I was not completely sold on In the Heart of the Sea and it hasn’t done very well in the US so I’m surprised to report that it is actually pretty good! There are a couple of niggles, but the story is epic, interesting and I was just gripped the entire time.

Chris Hemworth is Owen Chase, who has been appointed First Mate of The Essex whaling ship, a far lower position for someone with such experience. This puts him at odds with Captain George Pollard (Benjamin Walker), who has been made leader due to his bloodline and they frequently clash over how to run the ship, mediated by Second Mate Matthew Joy (Cillian Murphy). After having issues finding whales in their usual spots, the crew embark on a trip thousands of miles off the coast of South America, where they encounter a gigantic whale intent on ruining their ship and killing them all.

IN THE HEART OF THE SEA

This all told through the eyes of cabin boy Thomas Nickerson (Tom Holland), who survives the horror of the 1820 expedition but is still haunted by it 30 years later, when he is grown up (now Brendan Gleeson) and finally tells the story to Herman Melville (Ben Whishaw), who turns it into his fictional book Moby Dick.

I found the whole setting interesting. I had no idea that whale oil was used for power back in those days or that men went out to sea for years at a time to bring back oil from the whales. So I found this aspect of the film so educational and fascinating. I also looked on in captivated horror as they extract the oil from the beast and hack it apart. It is pretty icky and gruesome.

The whale attack scenes are brilliant. The camera movement makes you feel immersed in the action, but that sometimes means you can’t understand what’s going on. The whale itself is overwhelmingly huge and the CGI for it is impressive. That’s not always the case though. My concern when I watched the trailer was the ridiculous amount of obvious CGI, and that was my main issue with the film. I thought the whale was done well, but there are a lot of times when they are on the water when you can tell they are not, the water looks fake or there is an obvious green screen behind them. I thought tech had come along way, and I am no expert, but I could really tell when it was real and when it was not.

IN THE HEART OF THE SEA

I also had some issues with Hemsworth who I usually love. His American accent was pretty sketchy  and his hero act seemed a bit overdone at times. The star for me was Gleeson, who has such a vulnerable and emotional part to play as he recalls the terror of the journey. I also thought Murphy’s transformation was more powerful than others, and I had never seen Walker in anything before but I shall keep an eye out for him from now on.

This is a jampacked story. The film is two hours long but it whips along and a lot happens, but it did mean the characterisation fell by the wayside. We never really got to know any of these characters properly, which is a shame when you are supposed to be rooting for their survival as they float aimlessly in boats with little food and water for weeks. Though serious props to the actors for their physical transformation – it was actually shocking.

The fact this is a true story is just ridiculous. I like the way the writers fused the fictional scenes of Thomas and Melville with the real Essex adventure. I’m surprised I’ve never heard of it before. It is an incredible story about man vs. nature and survival in the most dire circumstances. It just isn’t an amazing film because of the CGI and because the storytellers sacrificed character in favour of spectacle.

In cinemas 26th December 

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