Having heard the rumors, Herman Melville (Ben Whishaw) is anxious to get the real story to use as material for his next book. Melville has found Tom Nickerson (Brendan Gleeson), the last living survivor of the Essex, the whaling ship supposedly destroyed by a giant whale. Melville offers every dollar he has to Tom in exchange for the story. Tom, who has never spoken of what transpired during that fateful trip, reluctantly agrees to tell the story.
Tom served as a deckhand on the Essex at the age of 14. Owen Chase (Chris Hemsworth) had been promised to be made captain of a whaling ship as a reward for his success in bringing back large quantities of whale oil on previous expeditions. As Owen is prepared to go out on the Essex, he finds out that George Pollard (Benjamin Walker) will be captain and he will serve as first mate. Pollard does not have near the experience Owen has, but Pollard is a member of one of the largest whaling families in Nantucket. Fortunately for the crew, Owen’s experience makes up for Pollard’s arrogance and ignorance.
After a less than successful hunt, Owen and Pollard hear a tale of a hunting ground with more whales than one can imagine. Despite warnings of a massive whale seemingly protecting the other whales, greed gets the best of Owen and Pollard, and they head for the hunting ground. If they can survive the trip, Owen and Pollard stand to become very wealthy men.
In the Heart of the Sea is based on the true story from 1820 that inspired Herman Melville’s classic Moby Dick. Who better to tackle this whale of a tale than Ron Howard?
Chris Hemsworth proves once again that he is capable of more than just a Norse god. He effectively leads the crew through the treacherous ordeal. At times, though, his abilities make him seem as if he maybe is a little superhuman. I hadn’t seen much from the rest of the cast prior to this film, but they all do a sufficient job. Sadly, though, most of them are just there to fill the screen, not given much backstory or reason to care about them, including Owen’s wife, Peggy, played by Charlotte Riley.
I’ve never read Moby Dick, and I can’t validate the “true story,” so I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt that they stayed somewhat true to the story. The scenes with the whales are, naturally, the most exciting. There is plenty of action crammed into those relatively short scenes. The effects used in those scenes are expertly done. The 3D adds a little to the film. The cinematography enlists some unique camera angles that make the 3D more effective. For a good portion of the movie, though, it is unnecessary. This is especially true when the crew is lost at sea.
While it has its flaws, Ron Howard and Chris Hemsworth give us a thrilling ride that gives a little more insight into a literary classic. With plenty of action, it is a much more exciting way to get the story of Moby Dick without having to read the book.