In the Heart of the Sea (2015)
December 28, 2015 3:57 PM - Subscribe

Based on the Nathaniel Philbrick book by the same title, this movie recounts the 1820 sinking of the whaling ship Essex, a maritime disaster that would inspire Herman Melville's great novel, Moby Dick.

In the Heart of the Sea explores events leading up to, during and following the encounter with the whale, which pushes the ship's surviving crew to their limits.
posted by carmicha (5 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Good film, but not a great film. I thought the framing story was awkward, especially in the last ten minutes. (Though Ben Whishaw is one of my favorite actors, after seeing him in the first part of the "Hollow Crown" Shakespeare adaptations.) I didn't care for the direction of this film overall, some of the choices left me frustrated. The whale attacks in particular are brief when they should have been a grueling middle third of the movie. There's no real sense on menace, just some quick special effects that hardly feel like a payoff. Also, a lot of the 'golden' small boat scenes felt unreal in a movie that should have gone out of it's way to ground itself in reality.
posted by Catblack at 1:30 PM on December 29, 2015

I agree with your take on it. The initial attack should have been drawn out for another ten minutes at least. I also found it hard to believe the whale followed them all that way. I thought it was all in the first mate's head until everyone acknowledged the whale that final time.
posted by GrapeApiary at 1:39 PM on December 29, 2015

I liked the sailing scenes as they head out to sea. My favorite whale visual was when the first harpooning victim dives deep and the crew is watching the line play out while wondering if their boat will be dragged below the surface. The movie left out one of the most disturbing parts of the story: the crew destroyed a lot of flora and fauna in the Galapagos Islands. However, they brought a sea turtle with them which, IIRC, they managed to wrestle into the boat for subsequent eating.
posted by carmicha at 1:58 PM on December 29, 2015

I agree with Catblack's assessment, too: the book is outstanding, and I'm so frustrated that the didn't just keep it all in 1820-21; the shoehorning in of the Melville framing device was awful and killed any dramatic momentum the rest of the film ever started.

I wanted more about the whaling and the conflicts between Chase and Pollard. (And also more of the sea turtles: they actually captured several hundred of them and many of them would just roam the deck until eaten...). I also thought that given that the cannibalism is probably the second-most sensationalist part of the story after being stove by a whale in the first place the film was oddly prudish about showing the depths of desperation you'll get to, or anything about the very wrenching disagreements about which way to sail and whether to stay on the uninhabited island or not--both especially fascinating points to the story since if they'd sailed toward the Marquesas at the start, which they avoided because of, ironically, fear of cannibals, they likely would have been rescued much sooner. And the men who stayed on the island were rescued as well. And I never understood why they weren't successful fishing with the corpses as well?
posted by TwoStride at 4:55 PM on December 29, 2015

I know the whale doesn't win, but is this a movie you can enjoy if you're rooting for the whale, kinda like how you can grimly enjoy Downfall while rooting for the Red Army? Or is the movie tonally incompatible with wanting all the humans to die screaming?
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 5:08 PM on December 29, 2015

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