Ever imagine what it would be like to get eaten by Chris Hemsworth? I know I have. Sadly, it turns out, it’s not as compelling a scenario as we all may have hoped. The disappointing film In the Heart of the Sea is based on a book by the same title . . . which was based on the real-life voyage of the whaling ship Essex . . . which was the inspiration for the novel Moby Dick. So, kind of like a game of Six Degrees of Herman Melville. If, like me, you were looking forward to this film because you read the eponymous book, or alternately, because you are a Melville afficionado, the film is unsatisfying. It is neither the book, In the Heart of the Sea, nor Moby Dick. The attempt to marry the realism of a harrowing true story of human survival with the rich, multi-layered literary symbolism of the novel results in the following: an hour or so’s worth (in the heart of the film) of a whale, not exactly white . . . more like, what was that skin condition Michael Jackson had? Vitiligo? Yeah. A vitiligo-stricken sperm whale chasing a handful of Nantucket whaler boys around the Pacific Ocean like a giant, vindictive Cujo, until it all goes Donner Party. Story aside, the acting is predictable and suspect. I don’t really know what a Nantucket accent is, but this film does nothing to clear that up for me. Unless it is an accent whose chief characteristic is its ephemeral nature.
It’s not all bad. The bat-shit crazy nature of 19th century whaling is well depicted in the action scenes in which the hubris and bravery of tiny little humans in row boats, hurling harpoons into beasts the size of BART trains, and the terrifying danger therein, is fully on display.
I give it:
2 out of 5 Manhattans