★★★ – “An enjoyable ‘Man v Beast’ tale.”

In the Heart of the Sea is directed by Ron Howard (Rush, Apollo 13) and stars a towering cast of brilliance; Chris Hemsworth, Cillian Murphy, Benjamin Walker, Tom Holland, Ben Whishaw & Brendan Gleeson.

Based on the true story that inspired the great novel Moby-Dick, a crew of brave and strong-willed sailors head out to hunt whales for oil. But before long, they encounter a truly magnificent mammoth-sized whale that pushes their boundaries and violently sinks their ship. In the Heart of the Sea tells the story of the incredible sacrifice and survival, and the choices that will ultimately save the lives of the fellow crewmen who were once aboard the Essex whaling ship; in explicit detail.

Ron Howard is quite hit-and-miss with his directional efforts, but it makes me happy to say that I very much enjoyed this film. Howard’s directing is genuine as he effortlessly pulls off some of the best ‘Man vs Beast’ moments in film history. There are scenes of dramatic despair, survival instinct and major sacrifice as the crew push forward to live or die as men. There are scenes of a graphic nature, more in terms of verbal description rather than visual, but nevertheless, graphical. Howard has crafted a wonderfully shot film, with possibly the best use of grading I’ve seen in a long time. Using hints of green, yellow and blue all in one to create a rotting sea-like look. This really pulls the atmosphere together.

Hemsworth performs skilfully as usual, with some great moments that stand out amongst his other roles. Tom Holland was greatly discovered back in 2012 with his role in The Impossible and since then has become one of the best young actors in the industry. His performance in this film proves and solidifies that notion, with a very promising career in acting ahead. Cillian Murphy is credited higher than others who had more screen-time than he, but I believe that’s a tactic to draw in fans and potentially increase the overall income. The scenes that did involve Murphy were great, though. Brendan Gleeson plays Tom Nickerson, who tells his story to a writer, Herman Melville, who wishes to publish a novel, inspired by these events. Gleeson and Whishaw have some nice chemistry as the story cuts back and fourth between past and present. I believe this way of story-telling works better and helps with understanding slightly more than the usual biopic, or ‘inspired tale’.

The effects are stunning and very convincing, though I wish that more of the whale was shown. This is personal preference though, and didn’t minimise my experience in any way. Although a lot of emotion was visible, I felt it needed a little more strength just to help relate to the characters. With such a dramatic tale, I do believe Howard could have strived for a more riveting conclusion for the lead characters.

The original pieces of music by Roque Baños were beautiful and haunting whenever the beast appeared on screen, preparing you for the greatness in both scale and drive. During the scenes with the crew on deck, the music plays dramatically underneath the crashing of waves and the shouting of crewmen. Using percussion and layered string melodies, Baños pulls the music and visuals tightly together.

Verdict; In the Heart of the Sea finally tells us the story of survival in the aftermath of the great sperm whale’s attack on the Essex, a whaling ship that inspired Moby-Dick, and does so in full-force. With brilliant and strong performances by all, and some of Howard’s best directing, we have ourselves a fairly enjoyable popcorn flick.

In the Heart of the Sea – ★★★ (6/10)

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