IN THE HEART OF THE SEA sank in a big way with both critics and public in 2015, harpooned by reviews that ranged from tepid to scathing and, like the jinxed ship and crew it portrays, returned from a hopeful commercial voyage starved of profit.
Director Ron Howard and team obviously put their backs into trying to make a Great movie, out of a, well, a whale of a tale, but while it failed to find critical approval or sufficient audience interest, there is plenty of exciting action, and the cast muster to the mast with spirit.
Taken from Nathaniel Philbrick’s non-fiction book, Charles Leavitt’s screenplay recounts the story of the doomed Essex, lost, along with most of its crew, on a whaling expedition in 1820. Not just lost, but attacked, demolished and hounded by a giant, intelligent and vengeful whale, which then became the “Moby Dick” of Herman Melville’s seminal American metaphor.
The bare bones of the story are the stuff of survival-movie manna, and the stunning production design alone warrants viewing; Howard’s gift for visual panache gets admirable display.
The 121 minutes are gorgeous to look at, and the CGI effects are stunning. All the care that went into the recreated backgrounds and creatures still wasn’t sufficient to pull crowds, and an expenditure of $100,000,000 belly-flopped like mighty Moby himself when only $94,000,000 came back worldwide.
Partially shot off the Canary Islands. With Chris Hemsworth (rugged), Brendan Gleeson (superb), Benjamin Walker, Cillian Murphy, Ben Wishaw, Tom Holland, Frank Dellane, Jordi Molla (brief but nice bit), Charlotte Riley (poorly utilized). The Whale (unbilled) is sensational.