‘In the Heart of the Sea’ proves the saying ‘there is nothing more terrifying than being trapped’. This doesn’t have to mean enclosed spaces as this film shows. Set in the vast expanse of the ocean, its sea-faring protagonists face insurmountable obstacles. Director Ron Howard is an old-hand at these epic films with his visual flair evident as the characters attempt to break free of physical and emotional shackles.
Travelling in 1820 in their whaling ship the crew, including Captain Pollard (Benjamin Walker) and first officer Owen (Chris Hemsworth), look for new adventures. Their quest turns deadly when their ship is destroyed by a huge whale. Shipwrecked at sea and miles from land, their plight turns desperate. Soon they are forced to turn to other forms of survival as starvation and thirst soon set in.
Although Ron Howard has had his share of successes, he has had his share of clunkers too. ‘In the Heart of the Sea’ falls somewhere in between. Whilst scenes featuring the giant whale attacking the ship are spectacularly realised, plus the general ship sailing sequences, the film stumbles with the characters. They are so thinly drawn and devoid of much personality it’s difficult joining in their plight. The actors try their best to infuse some depth in a somewhat mediocre script although they are increasingly upstaged by the CGI.
The scenes of whale versus hunters are often tense. Despite occasionally having a ‘Jaws’-like feel in terms of humongous sea creature battling humans, Howard manages to conjure the majesty of the beast and the dangers both it and the ocean offer. These elements lift an otherwise forgettable film dwelling on the usual survival clichés adding nothing new. Ron Howard has done better but without a strong screenplay to support his visual story-telling style, he is almost left at the sea in which his characters reside.
‘In the Heart of the Sea’ isn’t quite a soggy saga but isn’t what it should have been. Dazzling with its oceanic sequences, it produces little else to engage. It is a classic case of style over substance with the whale having more personality than the humans pursuing it.
Movie Review Rating out of 10: 6
Movie Review by Patrick Moore
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