In the Heart of the Sea, directed by Ron Howard is a film endowed with some truly beautiful visual moments; whether a ship fighting a violent storm or the cinematic (but uncomfortable) hunting of whales – this is a film that certainly catches the eye. Sadly beyond that the film has very little to offer. A lack of interesting characters, a plot that dances between non-existent and mildly noticeable, and overall a film that almost seems to forget to actually have the needed ingredients of a film of this scale – this is a situation where everything certainly seems to struggles to come together into a coherent and engaging film.
In the Heart of the Sea tells the story that subsequently inspired the story of Herman Melville’s book Moby Dick. Told from the perspective of Thomas Nickerson, played by both Tom Holland and Brendan Gleeson (it makes sense don’t worry) we here the story of an experienced first officer, Owen Chase, played by Chris Hemsworth who is forced to crew a ship with a first time captain named George Pollard, played by Benjamin Walker. The two struggle for close to a year to hunt and kill whales for their precious oil. Things as expected take a turn for the worse when they then encounter the infamous white whale and their unprofitable journey soon turns into one of impossible survival.
What has to be the most glaring issue with In the Heart of the Sea is the blatant lack of characters. The lead in the film Owen Chase is almost characterless. I by the end of the film couldn’t give you a clear understanding of who he is. What I think is the main issue is that Chase is to clean and morally right as a character. There’s nothing to him. He does the right thing and he always comes out on top. There is no real conflict within him nor does he have an element to his character that makes him mysterious or interesting. Owen Chase as a character just exists in this film but does so in such an uninspiring way. It also doesn’t help that you have Hollywood good guy Chris Hemsworth as the lead. Hemsworth (an actor I usually enjoy in the films he appears) makes no attempt to bring any depth to Owen Chase at all. Like I said, this is a character who serves very little to a film that is already lacking so much.
Alongside Hemsworth and his character is a smorgasbord of people whose names I can’t remember and characteristics are… well not present. In the Heart of the Sea boasts a good cast, but none have anything to work with. Actors like Cillian Murphy or Paul Anderson (who some may recognise from BBC’s Peaky Blinders) have nothing of worth to do in the film except be there.
The only actor who I felt any connection with was Brendan Gleeson as the older Thomas Nickerson. Gleeson brings a real heart to the character and I felt sympathy for him. The few scenes in which he told his story of the hardships that he went through was emotional and actually git the interest section of the brain to perk up. Other than that I was left sorely wanting every other character in the film.
Things get more uninteresting when the characters are thrown into a plot that has some real pacing issues and long stretches of deep disinterest. As things would begin to get interesting the film would cut away – shying away from some of the true hardships. Being stranded at sea, cannibalism, being hunted by a 100ft whale. All of these things would have been really interesting to dive into and explore. Instead the film fills the majority of its first two acts doing very little of anything and when it finally gets to the moments that I thought would begin to peak my engagement levels, it would cut away or gloss over it entirely.
I was continually left wanting more from this film and it seemed to intentionally want to shy away from it all and instead give me the cliff notes.
The only thing I can’t deny about In the Heart of the Sea is that it is an undeniably beautiful film to look at. There are scenes within this film where it almost pauses for a second and focuses on a stunning vista or the ship ploughing through the waves as a massive storm comes down upon them. Perhaps the only moments in the film where I would perk up and want to return my full attention to the film was when these beautiful scenes would appear.
Nothing much else comes to mind when it comes to reviewing this film. I was starved for more and the film lacked almost all of it. It’s a shame because I love Ron Howard as a director so much. He is a director who usually brings some wonderful stores to the big screen. His last film Rush was one of my favourite films of 2013. So it’s surprising that this one missed the mark entirely for me.
I will not be recommending In the Heart of the Sea. This is a film with a long run time and nothing of substance to fill it.
What did you think of In the Heart of the Sea? I’d love you to let me know in the comments down below. Also if you want to keep up with my other reviews then feel free to follow me on Twitter – @GavinsTurtle. Last but not least have a great week.