In the Heart of the Sea (2015)
Director: Ron Howard
Cast: Chris Hemsworth, Benjamin Walker, Cillian Murphy, Tom Holland, Ben Wishhaw, Brendan Gleeson.
Plot: The story is set in winter 1820 when veteran whaler Owen Chase is hired by a whaling company in Nantucket to take part in the journey of the whaling ship Essex.
The story, which is an adaptation of Nathaniel Philbrick’s novel of the same name (2000), starts in 1850 when author Herman Melville (Ben Whishaw) meets Thomas Nickerson (Brendan Gleeson) the only survivor of the Essex, a whaleship which sank in 1820. At first Nickerson isn’t eager to talk about his personal experience but is later convinced by his wife to finally tell his secret; asking Melville to write his book. After a short while in 1850, time goes back to 1820 and the beginning of the Essex’s journey in the sea. Owen Chase (Chris Hemsworth) is forced to sail with Captain George Pollard (Benjamin Walker), who is chosen as the Captain of the ship over Owen for his name and the importance of his family. This puts Pollard in a difficult position, especially when he has to confront Chase, who is an expert sailor and whaler.
In the Heart of the Sea (2015) was very much an action film which presented many a fight scene glorifying the work of Owen Chase, the protagonist, because of his talent for and capability to kill Whales. Visually, these sequences were spectacular and I particularly enjoyed them. In contrast, the film was a bit dull in how realistic it was throughout these fighting sequences and the relationship between Captain George and Owen Chase was something that kept the film from becoming boring – the development and the evolution of their relationship provided some memorable moments in the narrative flow which otherwise would have been limited to the fighting scenes.
I gather this film was mostly focused on being visually remarkable rather than being focused on the characters and particularly their psychology and interactions, but when a lot of the scenes in the film were focused on the sailors’ lives at sea and their long voyage in order to kill as many whales a possible to obtain whale oil for the whaling company Nantucket, you would’ve imagined that more dilemmas regarding morals and the ship-mates relationships to one another would have been posed. It’s not that I expected more, but In the Heart of the Sea still felt like it could have done with more crew interaction; not only between the main cast but also below deck, among the other members of the crew – I like to see the psychological impact on every character and I feel like much of it was mostly implied in too subtle of a manner.
The real arc of the story is the development of the relationship between George Pollard and Owen Chase who start their journey together as enemies but eventually come to understand one another and try to collaborate at the end of the film. It seems like they grow to respect one another and understand the other’s point of view; an evolution portrayed to a high standard by each of the actors.
What really tugged at my heart-strings was the development between Owen Chase and Thomas Nickerson’s (Tom Holland) relationship, it’s obvious that Owen wants to teach young Thomas the job and the kid seems quite good at it. Unfortunately when things get worse and the whole crew – or what is left of it – is stranded, young Thomas is less eager to learn, especially the basics for survival at sea, and he’s ashamed of his past as he grows up.
Likewise, Owen and Matthew Joy (Cillian Murphy) are a core part of the film: Matthew is like a brother to Owen and he tries hard to save his life, but unfortunately things won’t go as they imagined or planned. This developed sympathy for Matthew as he seemed to be trying hard to make himself a better man, or at least that’s the impression I got from Cillian Murphy’s performance. Even so, the development of such characters and their relationships did not seem complex enough to warrant much attention, and though Cillian Murphy’s great talent was on display and Chris Hemsworth was surprisingly good in the lead role, it wasn’t a perfect picture by any means. Maybe watch if you’re interested in the Moby Dick inspired story or you like spectacular naval sequences.