IN THE HEART OF THE SEA (4 out of 10) Directed by Ron Howard; Written by Charles Leavitt; Starring Chris Hemsworth, Benjamin Walker, Cillian Murphy, Brendan Gleeson, Ben Whishaw, Michelle Fairley, Tom Holland; Rated PG-13 for “intense sequences of action and peril, brief startling violence, and thematic material;” 121 mins; In wide release Dec 11, 2015
When you have a maritime classic like “Moby Dick,” you better have a compelling story to tell for the “true story” that inspired the classic novel. “In the Heart of the Sea” does not, and makes you wish they’d just made a Moby Dick movie.
Our film opens with Herman Melville (Ben Whisham) tracking down the last surviving member of the Essex, a whaling vessel lost at sea decades previously and whose actual fate was covered up. The sole survivor, Brendan Gleeson, promises to tell Mellville the tale, and he begins explaining the interplay between the first mate played by Chris Hemsworth and the Captain played by Benjamin Walker.
Soon they find themselves on the high seas facing harrowing danger, specifically a giant whale who seems to have a specific animus for them. They find themselves in grave danger and trying to get home, and as beautiful and perilous as this seems, you wonder why they simply wouldn’t make a version of “Moby Dick.”
This, frankly, got a little boring, and the characters and their motivations seemed a little thin. Even when they try to layer in issues of class and lineage, most of it is just disposable. The extra pretense of the story-within-a-story and going back and forth between what is happening on the ship and Melville trying to wheedle the story out of his source is also as annoying as it is unnecessary. Gleeson offers the best performance of anyone in the entire movie, but the fact that he is just padding to the rest of the story is the true tragedy of this story.
It is beautiful to look at, however. But at the end of all of this? I can’t help but side with the whale for as annoying and boring as it was.
From hell’s heart I stab at thee! Because you really should’ve just made a “Moby Dick” movie.
4 out of 10