When I first heard about this movie, I was thinking: ‘Oh no, not another killer whale movie.’ You know, the famous 1851 book and 1956 movie, Moby Dick starring Gregory Peck as Captain Ahab about the self-destructive obsession to hunt the great white whale (by the way, it was a focal point in the movie, Star Trek: First Contact, if you don’t remember either). While I don't remember much of that movie, what I clearly remember (as I'm probably sure you do if you had seen the movie) was the final scene where Captain Ahab is strapped to the whale, entangled by harpoon lines, while trying to kill it as the whale sails off out to sea.
Well, I was very pleasantly surprised when I saw In The Heart Of The Sea, because, Spoiler Alert: it didn't end the same way. What a relief. I was almost having nightmares that they would possibly try the same thing, but they chose a totally different path.
In this version, young Herman Melville (Ben Whishaw) seeks out old Thomas Nickerson (Brendan Gleeson) to recount his story about when he was a young seaman aboard the New England whaling ship ‘Essex’, so he can learn the true story about the maritime disaster which caused the ship's demise. This telling of the tale inspired Herman Melville’s novel, Moby Dick. However, instead of concentrating the story around the ship's captain, George Pollard (Benjamin Walker), Director Ron Howard concentrates a story on the first mate, Owen Chase (Chris Hemsworth), who does a fabulous job portraying the towering first mate, his fellowship mates (Cillian Murphy, Osy Ikhile, Gary Beadle) and a young crewman, young Thomas Nickerson (Tom Holland). This is a tough and thoughtful action movie set on the high seas with fabulous CG work and cinematography by Anthony Dodd Mantle (Slumdog Millionaire).
As old Thomas recounts the tale of that one, faithful voyage, we learn the horrors the crew had to endure just to produce enough whale oil to keep the lamps lit in New England. The work was not only treacherous, but lasted two to three years for one single trip. It really opened your eyes as to how people in the 19th century lived. As a person who's been on many boats, yachts and cruise ships, all I could think was: ‘Thank God I didn't live during that time.’ However, next time I am on a cruise ship, I think I'll complain a little bit less.
I really enjoyed this movie. I thought the cast was very good, with a great performance by Cillian Murphy, whom I wouldn't be surprised if he was handed an Oscar nod for best supporting actor. I would thoroughly recommend this movie to anyone, whether you've seen the original Moby Dick or not. The movie has the authentic feel of 1820 life aboard a whaling ship, and the beauty, serenity and loneliness of the open seas. It is a very moving and powerful film. And the best part is they don't leave you hanging, tied to a whale.