Before people learned about drilling for oil, Americans used whale fat to keep lights burning and cogs turning. Whalers braved the dangerous seas on expeditions lasting years, while their wives worried and rich bosses counted the money rolling in.
In the Heart of the Sea tells the real-life tragedy of The Essex, a ship that sank after being attacked by a whale in 1820, leaving its crew stranded for months. This harrowing tale of survival inspired Herman Melville's Moby Dick.
Though character development is crude, the rivalry between biggity captain George Pollard (Benjamin Walker) and the experienced yet hot-headed first mate Owen Chase (Chris Hemsworth) is strongly portrayed.
Even with a stellar cast, the film fails to convince us why Pollard wouldn't blame Chase when the ship capsized, or why Pollard's cousin, who wouldn't waste water on a dying man, would suddenly have a change of heart. No matter how much director Ron Howard tosses his audience about in the waves, the film is only mildly gripping.
With spectacular shots of tiny boats in the vast ocean, majestic CGI monsters and a rich narrative, it's hard not to think of Ang Lee's Life Of Pi. And harder not to see how In the Heart of the Sea pales in comparison.