In The Heart of the Sea

January 19, 2016


The inability to act has never been a barrier to stardom. But the ability to speak has been a prerequisite since the dawn of the talkie. Chris Hemsworth shows that’s no longer true for his starring role in Ron Howard’s In The Heart of The Sea, a Behind the Music-style peak at the ‘true’ story behind Herman Melville’s classic novel Moby Dick. 

Pulping this horrific inspiration, and splattering its key moments into the trailer like chum, it’s big, dumb and full of cum, a movie that’s so pubescent in its choices that it’s hard to take offence- or interest, in what it does, beyond a little wry amusement.

Visited late at night by a writer hell-bent on acquiring his truth, the last living survivor of the wrecked whaling ship, The Essex, recounts his story to recant his sins. (They’re played by Ben Whishaw and Brendan Gleeson, respectively). 

Hemsworth’s Owen Chase has dreams of captaining his own whaling vessel, but tightening belts and nelly old nepotism means he has to play second fiddle to Benjamin Walker’s George Pollard, whose family created the Whaling industry.  

Butting heads across the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, they squabble through squalls, snit through suppers and sulk through life at sea, as an over-fished ocean keeps them from returning to the woman they love, or from living up to the family name.

All this (but nothing else) is told in elliptical flash back that is supposed to lend the picture depth. Yet In The Heart of the Ocean is as shallow as a faded dilettante. There’s no attempt made to create individual characters for us to root for when the whale turns up, the ship hits the fin and the men unite in an epic, Darwinian fight for survival. As characters fall into the ocean and out of the plot you’ll be hard pushed to figure out who’s gone…as Howard’s epileptic direction leaves you with the spins.

 Hemsworth inability to speak in comprehensible sentences is glossed over by having him smolder like he’s a teen-mag centerfold, while in-between all the proclamations about what’s happening next in the plot, the cast do a lot of staring, out of windows, or at each other.

Cillian Murphy’s here too. Fuck knows why. While the ins and outs of the whaling industry- and Nantucket, which was the centre of that universe, are as well drawn as the characters, giving the movie no foundation.

Despite some brilliant action set pieces, there are an equal amount of moments where the movie tries to stir you and fails, as it‘s out of tune with the characterization elsewhere, which is basically Chase good, Pollard bad with everyone else impersonating the red-shirted ensigns in Star Trek, as they are pursued by a whale, itself a cross between Jaws, the T-Rex and Diana Troi.

In The Heart of the Ocean is a movie that needs to be seen on a big screen. Whether it needs to be seen- at all, depends on how much disposable income you’ve got.

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