In The Heart of the Sea – Film Review

What does $100m buy you these days?  Apparently only B Movie billing next to that force filled romp across a galaxy, far far away.  That might just be how director Ron Howard feels right now, after teaming up again with leading man Chris Hemsworth for a movie that’s an altogether different pace from their James Hunt biopic of a few years ago.After a panning from the American critics, will a budget big enough to raise the Forth Road Bridge stop this cinematic sea shanty from sinking without trace.  Give the light sabres a body swerve and see for yourselves.

First week’s box office in the US netted eleven million dollars – enough to underwrite six or seven entirely passable independent offerings – or almost all we’ve previously previewed this year at Lothian Life.  However, even that fortune leaves the backers of this story upon a story upon a story searching for the redemption clause in the completion bond contract.

Redemption it is all about.  From the pitiless greed of the whaling industry to the pitiless depths of the seas.  To say any more of the plot would be to hole it below the waterline, but it would give away nothing to say the stout men of the Whaleship Essex are cast adrift in an open boat with only their would-be behemoth prey for company, and not in a cuddly kitten Life of Pi way, either.

This isn’t an interpretation of Moby Dick. It’s rather an interpretation of the inspiration for Moby Dick, and not for the feint hearted.  That it’s so modestly rated (12A) is a source of some astonishment.  Unless your dad’s called Christian and your mum’s name is Salvesen, then the astonishingly graphic scenes of whale hunting will leave your young mind harpooned.  As for the juxtaposition of the excessive feast on the captain’s table and the privations that circumstances later impose on the desperate crew – well, at least nobody is crass enough to say it tastes just like chicken.

This sail, whale and male heavy cast should raise a few comparisons between Moby Dick, Chris Hemsworth, Cillian Murphy and Brendan Gleeson.  Well, maybe Gleeson is just moby these days.  Under billed but not under played, the omnipresent Ben Whishaw appears as the itinerant Herman Melville, who went on to write the book that has latterly been described as America’s epic.  It’s unclear how much of the story is factual.  Maybe like the board of enquiry alluded to in the closing scenes, the truth is difficult to handle.

Melville didn’t make his fortune on the story, not in his lifetime anyway.  Whether Ron Howard’s film performs in the same way is up for discussion, Ishmael.  Time will tell if this Boxing Day blubberer turns into a latter day classic or New Year’s left-over turkey.

In the Heart of the Sea, directed by Ron Howard is released on 26 December 2015


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