In the Heart of the Sea

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I couldn’t believe how fun the race car movie Rush was a few years ago, so the teaming of Chris Hemsworth (Thor) and Ron Howard (Opie) again for this adventure in the sea was promising. Howard was also smart enough to bring  editors Dan Hanley and Mike Hill (who should’ve edited 20 minutes out of this), and cinematographer Anthony Dod Mantle (who gives us some beautiful shots, which reminded me of some of the seascapes in Mr. Turner).  There are other times though, that Mantle frustrates us with the shaky camera thing that’s so popular.
It’s not a film version of Moby-Dick, but the version of the book by Nathaniel Philbrick on the story that inspired Melville to write the classic. Unfortunately, this isn’t a whale of a tale. It’s a by-the-numbers action picture filled with clichés. And after watching Angelina Jolie’s Unbroken last year and The Life of Pi a few years before that…another film with folks stranded at sea isn’t all that interesting. You can only watch the blistered skin, Cast Away beards, chapped lips, and emaciated bodies for so long before checking out (and this is a two hour film). It doesn’t help that none of the characters are all that interesting.
The film starts with Owen Chase (Hemsworth) fixing the roof of his house and talking to his pregnant wife about how long he’ll be at sea. He is told he won’t be captaining the ship, but he’ll be the first mate. It’s the early 1800s, and the crew is out in the waters off Nantucket to collect whale oil. Captain Pollard (Benjamin Walker) is from a rich naval family, and the two are soon at each others throats.
The framing device for the story should work. It’s got amazing character actor Brendon Gleeson (his son was stranded on a boat in Unbroken) and talented young actor Ben Whishaw. Instead, I was wondering how if Gleeson plays the 14-year-old, how he’s privy to the conversations Hemsworth has with others when he isn’t around. Their conversations also didn’t feel very authentic. He’s suffering such PSDS ? over what he experienced at sea, yet he builds miniature ships. He’s also really reluctant to talk, until his wife insists they need the money Melville offers him. Then he spills all the beans. Also, not sure Melville would’ve talked about how insecure he was about his writing ability, and all of that takes you out of the film.
The movie could’ve used some of the symbolism we got in Moby-Dick. It could’ve used some interesting characters that we cared about. Sure, the special effects are fun (not sure the 3D was necessary), but so what? If you go back to great films in the ’70s — the special effects weren’t so great in Star Wars, and we all loved it. Jaws, which you’ll be thinking about while watching this, had a huge, fake shark; yet that was highly entertaining.
This movie is rudderless. It’s a bore.
It gets 1 1/2 stars out of 5.

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