Friday, December 11, 2015

In the Heart of the Sea [2015]

MPAA (PG-13)  CNS/USCCB (A-III)  ChicagoTribune (2 Stars) (2 Stars)  AVClub (B)  Fr. Dennis (3 Stars)

IMDb listing
CNS/USCCB (J. Mulderig) review
ChicagoTribune (M. Phillips) review (M. Zoller Seitz) review
AVClub (I. Vishnevetsky) review  

In the Heart of the Sea [2015] (directed by Ron Howard [wikip] [IMDb], screenplay by Charles Leavitt, screen story by Charles Leavitt, Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver based on the book [GW] [WCat] [Amzn] by Nathaniel Philbrick [wikip] [GR] [WCat] [Amzn] [IMDb]) seeks to re-tell the story of the New England whale-ship The Essex [wikip], whose sinking by a sperm-whale in the South Pacific in 1820 helped inspire Hermann Melville's [wikip] [GR] [WCat] [Amzn] classic novel Moby Dick (1851) [wikip] [GR] [WCat] [Amzn] [IMDb].  Does it succeed?  Well that'd be for the viewer to decide.

From a technical (and special effects) point of view, the film is spectacular.  As a matter of policy, I try to avoid seeing 3D versions of movies (they generally cost $4/ticket more in the United States, which particularly for a family would "add up" ...).  So in this case as well, I saw the 2D version.  HOWEVER, I would say that this film would probably been remarkable to see in 3D, hence _not_ a loss of time / money if one were to see it that way.

There is something remarkable about the colors that are possible "out on the water" / "at sea."  One would think "it's just water" (even THE CLOUDS are "just water")  BUT combine this with sunlight, starlight, moonlight, a light or fire in the distance, and THE VIEW / VISTA can be JUST MAGNIFICENT.  And to their credit, the film makers, director Ron Howard [wikip] [IMDb], et al, really "go to town" with this, producing a film that is visually spectacular and certainly worthy of consideration for various nominations for Cinematography / Visual Effects come Awards Season.

The plot / story?  Eh ... Certainly NOT bad, but certainly NOT as spectacular as watching The Essex [wikip], early in its voyage, turning _ toward_ a "starboard squall" (one which they could have avoided...) on Captain Pollard's (played in the film by Benjamin Walker) orders to "test his men."  The visual effects were, again, spectacular, the acting ... in as much as there was acting ... was ... eh.

And yet, let's face it.  Arguably the lead actor in this drama becomes a "special effects" _whale_ ;-).  Without the whale, there'd be no story ;-)

So many viewers may be disappointed that the acting is rather rote / situation driven, even contrived.  Yes, it's a matter of historical record that by midway into their 2 1/2 year voyage Captain Pollard and his first mate Owen Chase (played by Chris Hemworth) didn't much like each other (in good part because of frustration that they weren't encountering a lot of whales ...).  Yet, a good part of the "human drama" in this film is staked on this conflict between the two men, with the film portraying Owen Chase as being a much more experienced seaman than Pollard, which in reality wasn't really the case.  (The Captain Pollard of history may have been a lousy captain, but not for lack of experience, rather for lack of ability ;-).

Anyway, over a year into their whaling (in many respects _scavenging_) voyage, an ocean away from home -- they left Nantucket Island off the coast of Massachusetts in 1819 and found themselves by the Galapagos Islands in the Pacific in 1820 -- with precious few barrels of "whale oil" in their hold, they hear rumors of a new / large "whaling ground" some 1000 miles in open ocean to the west.  So they head out there, do find some whales, but ALSO find their encounter with Destiny ... Much of course, must ensue ... much actually based on the historical record of the sinking of The Essex by an angry, white / alabaster-looking whale.    

Is the film worth the see on the big screen?  For the cinematography, I'd say YES.  And again, this is a film that would not necessarily look bad (or be a waste of the additional money) to see in 3D.  For the story itself?  Eh.  But then WE GO TO SEE MOVIES _FOR THE VISUALS_.  And visually speaking this film succeeds in "hawling-in its load" ... It is spectacular.

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