In the Heart of the Sea - Review

A Withheld Beast

In the Heart of the Sea is inspired by the incredible true story that inspired Moby Dick, but does it live up to the massive legacy that has come before it?

Plot

In the Heart of the Sea is caught between two intriguing storylines; the tale of the white whale that inspired Moby Dick, and the telling of the story to writer Herman Melville by the last living member of the ship, Thomas Nickerson. These two plot lines are both excellent ideas, but both end up feeling half baked since the film tries to tell both stories with excitement and heart. The former story of the white whale is the most exciting, being that it is the central focus of the film. While the scenes with the famous whale are exciting, they don't feel epic. There is never a meaningful sense of scale, which is unfortunate in a film where the main antagonist is a 100 foot whale. The whale itself looks good, as do the other CGI animated whales, but it would have been great to shake things up with a practical effect, since there are many scenes where someone is right up close to the whale. The film attempts to be an epic that matches the book Moby Dick, but its too short running time and back and forth plot leave it feeling like a withheld greatness. 

Performances

Leading man Chris Hemsworth is a good actor, but hasn't seemed to have found his one defining dramatic role yet. This is not it, but it is fun to see Thor throw a javelin at a whale. Almost all the other big names are sidelined, or their plot lines are dropped too quickly. For example, central human antagonist Captain Pollard, played by Benjamin Walker, and Chris Hemsworth's character initially have a great rivalry, but it fades entirely after the one confrontation the two have. Cillian Murphy is also hugely underutilized, only appearing in a few scenes, and mostly in the background.

Style

The main draw of In the Heart of the Sea is its gigantic whale. The CGI whale is unique from the other whales in the film, and much larger, but it never seemed truly dominant over the people. Yes, it does rain down a lot of destruction, but its supreme scale over the humans is never truly showcased, causing it to feel more like a pesky annoyance when it shows up, rather than a dominant force the humans fear. 

Summary

In the Heart of the Sea is a passable version of the tale that inspired Moby Dick, but don't be expecting a grand epic worthy of the timeless classic.

Pros- Great story

Cons- Underuse of great cast, uninteresting whale, half baked plot