In the Heart of the Sea – 2.5/5 – Movie Reviews by Ry!

in the heart of the seaIn the Heart of the Sea – 2.5/5 – The things that come out of spectacles are sometime the least entertaining.  A film that allures you through its visual conception is one thing; but not allowing there to be room for story or character development can also be another.  No matter if it’s a war epic, a journey across the land or a romantic tale; the visuals will pull you in.  What makes the film more are the characters and story.  When it comes to In the Heart of the Sea; it is your basic tale that gets lost in its visuals.  Even with a luscious allure of this period piece; this film fails to impress beyond being just another forgettable tale.

Premise:  This is the recounting of the true tale of the Whaling Ship Essex; and how its journey inspired the novel ‘Moby Dick’.

When it comes to the acting; we have a stalwart in the main lead.  In the role as Owen Chase you have Chris Hemsworth.  Hemsworth does his best with the role of being the First Mate on the Essex.  Even in the being in the position under the Captain; he has more power, suave and knowledge of the whaling industry.  With his strong personality; Hemsworth gives a character that is grizzled, hearty and a powerhouse on screen.  He is (for at least this film) the most fleshed out character; knowing his purpose behind his actions.  You see that deeply; his desires to do his best at his job for him and his wife.   He does everything for his shipmates knowing that he can’t go home empty handed.  Even for a strong cast, Hemsworth becomes a victim to the lack of story.  With the rest of the cast; outside of the recognizable names of Brendan Glesson and Cillian Murphy; there isn’t any semblance of great or good secondary characters.  Even these known names fall victim to the lack of story.  With no presence of any development; the characters become the typical archetypes that are found in seafaring adventures.  With a lacking of real character depth; the dramatic tension is flat and emotional buildup becomes nonexistent.  Every other character not part of the Essex journey at sea are just placement holders to help flesh out the setting of the film.

The direction is one that falls into the realm of lacking.  At the core of this film is a vision about what is the purpose of story.  What happens is that the director fools around with other theatrical items; the film becomes a jumbled mess.  The film feels like it is three separate tales in one; broken up within each of the acts.  Each act seems to resemble three different films:

First Act:  Introduction to characters (through flashback narration).  There is a focus on the purpose of the period and storytelling; which moves it you thematic situation of a period piece.

Second Act: Focus changes to the forceful directive of what is ship faring and the importance of Whale oil, whaling industry and economics involved with it.  This is played against stylistic settings of the ship, oceans and the whales encountered.  A layer of Captain vs. First Mate within the crew dynamic.

Third Act: Upfront with the climax; forced situation of ‘man vs. nature’ (lack of development).  A quick wrap-up in the end.

This film is filled with a lot of unhinging circumstances.  The film’s director takes an approach of trying to build the film through a ‘historical’ perspective of flashback narration.  There is an author that wants to use the tale of the Essex for his new book.  Through this narration; we get (at first) an exploration of the Whaling culture.  We then meet the characters, watch them get on a ship and go to the sea.  The faults that comes  is based on a script that is generic, bland and drawn out.  There are plotted situations that have no real hardship because there are too many characters and no real ‘attachment’ outside of Hemsworth’s Owen Chase.  As we move along; the film falls into the obvious niche of ‘style over substance’.  It leaves the audience with a spectacle instead of developing the purpose of the journey.  That film’s enjoyment is drowned out from the fact it ‘wants’ you to care for the crew but you don’t.   With ‘style over substance’; the glaring basic outline comes forth:

Plot point encountered > conflict happens > consequential outcome > arrival to new plot point.

What keeps you in the film is the same thing that drowns out everything else.  You are pushed through the journey because of the period piece props, setups and aspects of color from the blending through the lens (explained later).  When we finally get to third act; the oddity of the film takes a turn further when we are faced with the climax.  That ‘change’ doesn’t work out as the film just falters from here.  The film then moves to changed into another setting of ‘man vs. nature’; where the obvious clichés take place.  This hurts the actions that occur because no emotional attachments are profound.  There is an expositional display that happens for certain characters; but it just becomes lost in translation.  As the audience, you come to not really understand what the purpose of this journey was.

The one thing that the use of ‘style of substance’ does is prop up the use of visuals.  The scale of this film is vibrant through the period setting. Through the technique of panorama views; there is a blending of warm colors within the nature of ship faring.  You feel the presences of the ‘journey at sea’ as well as the hardship of the job of whaling.  There are no hollow sensation in what you’re seeing (unlike the story); but the stylistic nature makes the film stand out on the screen.  The score is common within its typical ‘epic’ sounding scale.  With the use of loud resounding noise; there is a sense to create powerful tension; but the technique is lazy; the score becomes annoying.

In The Heart of the Sea is a film that gets lost in its own potential.  There is so much that is good or was going to be ‘good’; but it falls flat through its lack of storytelling and characters.  If you are a fan of period pieces; you can give it a chance at the theaters.  I would recommend leave this film as a rental for others out there.

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