“In the Heart of the Sea” is pretty much your grandfather’s Moby Dick.
It has the visual splendor of a period film, the great performances from its cast to carry it through, and under the command of Ron Howard, how could it miss?
The movie provides a series of flashbacks, which set up its dramatic focus. Ben Whishaw stars as young Herman Melville, who interviews an old sailor named Thomas Nickerson (Brendan Gleeson) in order to provide some inspiration for his new novel.
Chris Hemsworth stars as Owen Chase, a first mate onboard the ship the Essex in 1820. Benjamin Walker co-stars as Captain George Pollard, and Cillian Murphy is Pollard’s second mate.
While on their voyage at sea, they encounter a gigantic sperm whale that splits their ship in half and it sinks. The crew is stranded at sea for 90 days.
The men have to do whatever they can to survive, including resorting to cannibalism. Later they sail toward South America.
Howard definitely is the real captain of this ship, bringing a great story to life that is brimming with authenticity. The sequences at sea alone are nothing short of breathtaking. Howard is known for his flair for telling harrowing true-life stories, such as “Apollo 13.”
Here, he basically has the structure of that story, just transposed at sea.
Hemsworth does display a period-style presence, even if he doesn’t feel completely compelling throughout, and the rest of the supporting cast is about as good.
“In the Heart of the Sea” may divide audiences between Melville purists and those looking for an epic good time, but I think this movie works. It floats and doesn’t sink.
Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of action and peril, brief startling violence, and thematic material.
Hall is a syndicated columnist in South Georgia.