Ask anyone what they think of when you mention the title Moby Dick, and they'll probably tell you a tale of revenge, obsession, and hatred. While Herman Melville's novel indeed covers all of that ground, and then some, it's only part of what In The Heart Of The Sea manages to cover. Rather, the story that inspired Melville, and his journey to capture it, are the focus of Ron Howard's latest directorial effort, and the result is a triumphant sea epic the likes of which we haven't seen in some time.
After a promise to command his own vessel is deferred, Owen Chase (Chris Hemsworth) is ordered to serve as First Mate to the inexperienced, yet well connected George Pollard Jr. (Benjamin Walker.) Their vessel was the Whaleship Essex, their journey was deemed implausibly scuttled, yet after years of silence and secrecy, the true story of a crew of sailors versus a seemingly demonic white whale will be revealed by one of the surviving crew members (Brendan Gleeson) to the man who would make it famous (Ben Whishaw).
In The Heart Of The Sea would make for a great double feature with 2003's Master And Commander: The Far Side Of The World, though it's probably best to watch the more recent film first. While it's got its fair share of action, the latest film in the Ron Howard filmography is definitely more of a bleak affair than its more adventurous number. That's not to say that this film is inferior, rather that the nature of its material is of a nature that is more gravely series – especially considering this film is based on a true story.
The most impressive aspect about In The Heart Of The Sea is the ensemble cast that the film has assembled to tell its tale. With Chris Hemsworth making his second appearance in a Ron Howard film, the deck was always stacked for greatness. However, special attention should also be paid to Benjamin Walker and Tom Holland, as the two actors match Hemsworth pound for pound in dramatic gravitas. In particular, Holland has shown just why his star has been rising so quickly as of late, with younger version of Brendan Gleeson's Thomas Nickerson showing a good deal of chemistry with that of the Australian actor.
If there's any downside to In The Heart Of The Sea, it's the fact that you really need to be in the mood to watch it. For all intents and purposes, it is a film that is excellent in caliber, and manages to keep the audience entertained with its tale of survival on the high seas. However, despite the way the commercials have been selling the film, Ron Howard's whaling epic is more of a classical slow burn than a thrill-packed action bonanza. This film was made for patient, discerning audiences who want to hear a story, while being entertained in the process.
With so much cinematic junk food out in the world at any given moment, films like In The Heart Of The Sea are important, as they present living history in such a way that it makes them seem more like cinematic experiences and less like mere adaptations. Howard's directorial hand is as strong as ever, with Hemsworth more than holding up his end of the bargain on the acting side. Here's hoping that this film not only performs well at the box office, but also that it ensures the continued pairing of these two expert entertainers.