In the Heart of the Sea Movie Review
If you're looking for a whale of a good time, In the Heart of the Sea offers plenty of blubbery adventure, even if its harpoons barely pierce the skin.
Based on the true story that was one of the inspirations for Moby-Dick, In the Heart of the Sea is a Ron Howard-directed whale tale that stars Chris Hemsworth, which pretty means you get to watch Thor yelling at sailors and throwing sticks at a gigantic CGI whale for two hours. Though sometimes stilted by awkward 19th century dialogue and inconsistent accents, Hemsworth serves a fine protagonist, even though the role isn't quite as juicy as he probably envisioned when he signed on.
That's because In the Heart of the Sea is a fun movie, nothing more, nothing less, an adventure with a few exciting action scenes, moderately likable characters and an impressive true story of survival that, while exaggerated for our viewing pleasure, isn't drastically altered. The script lacks the nuance and wit of, say, Master and Commander or Cast Away, and even among Ron Howard's movies it lacks the dramatic edge he was aiming for. But as a crowd pleasure, it largely works.
At two hours, the movie does begin to drag anchor as the ending approaches, and even after the story ends it goes on for another ten minutes. Howard bookends the film with some extended sequences involving Ben Whishaw (as Moby-Dick author Herman Melville) and Brendan Gleeson, and while the actors are good fits for their roles, the material largely feels unnecessary and adds little to the overall experience. The film’s last ten minutes are a slog as Howard wraps up loose ends that didn’t need to be wrapped up.
As far as the visual effects go--and there are a lot of them--they stand up better than the movie trailers would suggest, but still appear a few years out of date. Howard overcomes such limitations for the most parts, but it's challenging to get too worked up about an angry whale that is clearly digitally drawn.
In the Heart of the Sea isn't a great movie, but it's a moderately entertaining thriller that's worth a voyage.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.