In the Heart of the Sea is sort of like The Perfect Storm meets Jaws – in the year 1820. It’s an epic ‘big fish’ tale with a title nearly as long as the tail of the whale that inspired Herman Melville’s literary classic, “Moby-Dick” (which I have yet to read). The best thing the movie has going for it is Chris Hemsworth (Thor). If not for him, I would likely have skipped this cinematic voyage altogether, despite its being helmed by one of my favorite directors, Ron Howard. The pair worked together on the excellent, under-appreciated 2013 movie Rush, in which Hemsworth proved that he’s got a lot more to offer than Nordic-god good looks and proficiency with a hammer. Turns out, he’s quite handy with a harpoon too!
Anyway, here’s the gist: Author Herman Melville is obsessed with the story of a maritime disaster that took place 30 years prior and wants to make it the premise of his next book. He tracks down the lone remaining survivor who, for the first time, opens up about the harrowing experience, recounting how a giant whale stalked and attacked a New England-based whaling vessel called the Essex, forcing its crew to abandon ship in the middle of the ocean, thousands of miles from home.
The plot centers largely on the tense relationship between the Essex’s privileged, novice captain (Benjamin Walker) and his respected first mate (Hemsworth) as they set sail on a mission to secure two-thousand barrels of whale oil – a hot commodity back in the day. When disaster strikes, the narrative turns to the surviving crew’s efforts to stay alive for weeks on end, battling storms, starvation and despair. And whales.
In the Heart of the Sea tries to mix some good old-fashioned storytelling with high-end, high-tide special effects. But the seafaring adventure doesn’t quite work, in 2D or 3D. It’s probably worth seeing if you’re a diehard Chris Hemsworth fan because he is good in it, but the movie as a whole falls flat. If you get my drift…