Monday, 28 December 2015

In the Heart of the Sea (4 Stars)

This is the true story that inspired the famous American novel "Moby Dick". Following the style of 10th Century novellas, it begins in 1850, but most of the story takes place in 1820.

The author Herman Melville visits an inn owned by Thomas Nickerson (Brendan Gleeson), the last remaining survivor of the Essex, a whaleship that was lost at sea. Nickerson has never told the story of the ship to anyone, so Melville offers him a large bribe. Not even this can persuade Nickerson, racked by guilt over what happened, but Nickerson's wife insists that he should take the money.

In 1820 the Essex sailed to sea to kill whales for oil. At that time whales were the soul source of the oil that was used for home and street lighting. The most experienced sailor was Owen Chase (Christ Hemsworth), but another man, George Pollard, was picked as captain because of his family connections. That was the journey's first mistake. When lives are at stake an inexperienced man shouldn't be put in charge.

After mishaps on the voyage the Essex finally finds a large school of whales, but their attempts to kill a large white whale lead to their ship being sunk, hundreds of miles from land. They escape in lifeboats, but the whale follows them. When the food runs out the men have to resort to desperate measures to survive, including cannibalism.

This is a visually spectacular film. There are first class performances by all the actors, but Brendan Gleeson stands head and shoulders above the rest.

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