Posted Dec 29 2015

In The Heart Of The Sea -This Boat Rocks, This Movie - Not So Much

Dir: Ron Howard

Starring Chris Hemsworth, Benjamin Walker, Cillian Murphy, Ben Wishaw, Brendan Gleeson, Tom Holland

Nice whale. Shame about the movie? For a film that is big on action and spectacle, Ron Howard’s latest is a curiously underwhelming thing. Using Whishaw’s Herman Mellville, gearing up to write Moby Dick, as its wraparound, the film focuses on the true-story plight of the whaling ship the Essex, and its ill fated voyage that brought it bow to snout with a rather large white whale that for all intents and purposes seemed intent on holding a grudge. Thus the Essex is totalled and the dwindling surviving crew – led by Hemsworth first mate and Walker’s untested Captain – left to fight for survival whilst cast adrift and asunder. Needless to say, cannibalism rears its head. As does the demon whale who just can’t seem to let lie the fact they tried to kill him and turn him into lamp oil.

It’s all visually very impressive, Howard once again utilising the digital brilliance of his Rush cinematographer Anthony Dod Mantle, easily one of the finest working in cinema today. Some have complained that certain scenes make use of back projection and unrealistic CG work. But Howard and his DP have gone for a very distinctive palette here, almost painterly at times, and clearly echoing John Huston’s 1956 Moby Dick, so such artificiality seems purposeful in context. Realism is however definitely reserved for the mightily impressive whale himself, who gives easily one of the best performances in a movie that is full of decent work all round (special mention to future Spider-Man Holland, who plays Brendan Gleeson as a younger cabin boy.)

And yet, the sum of its parts do not make a satisfying whole. As the men lie adrift on the sea, the movie loses its bearings as well, to the point where you’re just willing the whale to come back and be done with them. There are things to like here, even if the film overall is a disappointment.


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