In the Heart of the Sea

Young Hearts, Ron Free

Avast me ‘arties! Gather ye round as I spin a bountiful yarn about Howard’s new tellin’. Tis a tale so large you’ll ne’er believe it true but what follows is my recountin’ of such fable so settle in ye scurvy ridden bilge rats!

Whilst this kind of talk is exactly 127.3% inaccurate when in reference to this film it is a good representation of how I felt when I left the screening because the film is really evocative of an era rich with stunningly wooden sailing vessels but void of vitamin C.

The film’s set is probably one of the premier attractions of the film as the craftsmanship of the costumes, the port town of Nantucket and of course The Essex (the featured whaling ship) are all exceptional.

Of course the physical effects are over-laid with enough CGI to make Beowulf proud which some viewers may find a turn off but for me I thought it was relatively tactful. For example the wide shots of Nantucket are obviously CGI but they don’t linger. The stormy weather is again obviously CGI but these scenes are few and far between.

This allows more room for practical effects and real physical objects to shine through. Even the mysterious white whale was relatively subtle. The clever use of aerial shots provide a sense of scale that enhances the on screen action and when the whale is close up there is a fine attention to detail which means you don’t sit there screaming “FAKE!!” at the screen like you are watching wrestling, X-Factor or the boobs of your average porn star.

If I have one piece of advice for this film though that would be do not go and see it in 3D. I should point out that during the trailers the 3D wasn’t working at all in my screening so when it was “fixed” I don’t know if was “fixed” or if it was fixed like I fix my car; ignore it, hope it doesn’t blow up. However, a lot of the 3Dness was really janky and I started wondering if I was still drunk from my Christmas party.

In case you haven’t guessed it yet; the film’s plot is basically Moby Dick or rather the true story that inspired Moby Dick. It’s interesting because Herman Melville (Ben Whishaw) is desparate for a successful novel and turns to a now middle-aged, but still traumatised, Tom Nickerson (Brendan Gleeson) for his extraordinary tale of survival when he was a 14 year old ship hand.

The tale then essentially follows 3 plot threads, the whale attack that sinks their purpose built whaling ship, the crew’s attempts to survive and the relation ship between the young ship’s captain George Pollard (Benjamin Walker) and it’s first mate Owen Chase (Chris Hemsworth).

The latter of these 3 is probably the weakest aspect. We are told right from the start that the relationship is like that of a strained marriage. This is quickly realised with Pollard trying to show the bravado of a confident husband but his wife Owen shoots him down in front of all his friends leaving him to sulk for most of the rest of the film. The two barely talk after this so this idea of conflicting personalities ends up as jetsam; thrown away to just drift through the film.

This is a bit of a shame as most of the characters are mostly likeable with the exception of the actual whaling making it hard to really root for or against any one individual.

You will definitely root against the vicious whaling though is both saddening and gruesome but those were the times – oil from the ground was as fictional as Donald Trump’s hair.

In the Heart of the Sea because feels like a personal love affair with the original literary classic so director Ron Howard must have had a bit of free reign over this film. It’s not just a labour of love though, it’s a pretty decent film that takes a famous novel and provides a re-telling in such a way that fans of the original novel can’t be moby dicks about the fact it isn’t faithful to it’s inspiration because, quite simply, it’s not meant to be.

The Good, The Bad & The Outcome

+ Great Setting
+ Decent CGI
+ Interesting take on a classic story

The 3D version
– Captain and first mate dynamic
– Whaling 😥



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