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In The Heart of The Sea Review

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Coming to our screens on St. Stephen’s Day after a long bout at sea, is Chris Hemsworth in Ron Howard’s whaling epic, In The Heart of The Sea. Having had its release switched from Spring this year to Winter, the film sits rather neatly into the Christmas calendar, when appetites may well have turned from the space behemoth of Star Wars, to a behemoth of the sea.

 
The film, based on the best-selling book by Nathaniel Philbrick tells the true story of the Essex whaling ship that provided Herman Melville with his inspiration for his American classic Moby Dick. The premise is a simple one. The crew sail a vast ocean hunting whales for their oil, when a giant whale makes it his mission to take them and their ship down into the murky depths. At the helm is Chris Hemsworth as First Mate Owen Chase, who when we see him first, still looks like he could summon Thor’s hammer from the nearest cloud. There is almost too much brawn and god-like strut to Hemsworth’s performance and his part feels one dimensional and underwritten, making it difficult for the audience to invest in his perils at sea when they come. It’s telling that the more dishevelled he gets when stranded at sea, the more convincing he becomes.
 
 
The real star of the show here is the whale itself. One hundred feet long, director Ron Howard has fashioned his ocean beast beautifully and the underwater close-ups are photorealistic and breath-taking to look at. However unlike films such as Jaws, where the enemy is a sharp toothed eating machine, the whale here gets the sympathy, protecting the herd from the deadly assassins floating on the surface. In the epic tale then of man versus nature, you’re inclined to root for the beast.

The supporting cast, in particular Brendan Gleeson and Cillian Murphy, bring the film’s best performances. Gleeson is outstanding, anchoring the film with his account relayed to Herman Melville (Ben Whishaw) while Cillian Murphy, though underused initially, gives the film its emotional kick as Second Mate Matthew Joy, with Murphy proving himself yet again to be a terrific actor, stealing a key emotional scene from Hemsworth.

Howard’s passion for his subject matter is obvious but in his endeavour to bring the whale to life, he has himself sacrificed his crew to the beast. Bar perhaps Murphy and Tom Holland (who plays Gleeson's character as a boy), you would quite happily let the beast have them. In the Heart of the Sea is fine for a post Christmas slice of entertainment but unfortunately no match for the galactic monster that is Star Wars.

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The Movie Bit: In The Heart of The Sea Review
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