In the Heart of the Sea tells the story of a monstrous white whale, but it’s not the same whale story we’re familiar with. No, this one tells the REAL story of the doomed Essex, which Herman Melville based Moby Dick on. Chris Hemsworth plays the First Mate of a ship that is attacked by a whale and then lost at sea for months. We learn about the ordeal from Tom Nickerson (Brendan Gleeson), who is the only surviving crewmember of the Essex. He has been wracked with guilt for years and reveals big secrets to Melville as he recounts the whole, harrowing tale.
In the Heart of the Sea is directed by Ron Howard, who brought along his favorite crew members from the movie Rush (including Hemsworth, who can still pull off beefcake when he’s gaunt and scarred). Howard also uses his Rush cinematographer, Anthony Dod Mantle, which brings me to my biggest problem with In the Heart of the Sea. The camera is EVERYWHERE, constantly being thrown around to the point of losing focus and sometimes even sight of its subject. I think Mantle wanted a new and interesting way to convey the motion of a ship at sea, but the camera is shaky even when they’re docked. It’s distracting to the point of frustration and sometimes even dizzying. The commotion is exaggerated by the 3D effects (which is how I saw it) so I recommend seeing this movie in a traditional 2D format. Believe me, the 3D effects do not enhance the movie enough to justify barfing up your Junior Mints.
There’s also the issue of a big reveal later in the film. It’s a terrifying secret of the Essex crew but the audience will see it coming from miles away. Maybe we’ve seen too many lost-at-sea pics lately (Unbroken and Life of Pi come to mind immediately) but this has become familiar territory for us. In the Heart of the Sea feels anticlimactic and predictable, thanks to this, despite attempts to tell an old story a new way. I’m afraid that I can only recommend In the Heart of the Sea to those who love a good seafaring adventure, who are also not prone to motion sickness. – C-