‘In the Heart of the Sea’ Review

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Director: Ron Howard

Writer: Charles Leavitt

Cast: Chris Hemsworth, Benjamin Walker, Cillian Murphy, Tom Holland, Frank Dillane, Joseph Mawie, Gary Beadle, Charlotte Riley, Donald Sumpter, Richard Bremmer, Jordi Molla, Michelle Fairley, Ben Whishaw, and Brendan Gleeson

Synopsis: Based on the 1820 event, a whaling ship is preyed upon by a giant whale, stranding its crew at sea for 90 days, thousands of miles from home.

 

*Reviewer Note:  This will be a spoiler free review.*

 

Based on the book by Nathaniel Philbrick of the same name, Ron Howard takes the books basic premise about the whaling ship Essex in the 1820s that goes out to sea and encounters a massive whale that leaves some of the crew stranding at sea for 90 days and leaving them to fight for their lives against the elements, each other, and the massive whale that inspired Herman Melville’s classic epic Moby Dick. Now, the film – despite the ads – In the Heart of the Sea is not a film about Moby Dick, it’s about the inspiration behind Moby Dick. It’s also not so much about the whale itself, its more about the crew as they survive. So does In the Heart of the Sea stay aloft or does it sink hard? Well, it’s a give and take relationship.

The film has a nifty framing device as it starts in 1850 when author Herman Melville (Whishaw) goes to speak with Thomas Nickerson (Gleeson), the last living survivor of the Essex, to hear the story – which has become a somewhat myth and tale – of the Essex so that he can write his new book. Thomas is reluctant at first, but with a push from his wife (Fairley) he tells Melville the story. We then flashback to the 1820s and the focus changes to Owen Chase (Hemsworth), an experienced whaler who is eager to get his own ship, but has to serve as First Mate to Captain George Pollard (Walker), who is the son of a prestigious whaling family. Both men are eager to prove themselves and but their conflicting personalities and backgrounds have to be put to the side as their ship is attacked by a whale that they have never seen before. Left shipwrecked, the crew have to resort to anything they can to survive.

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In the Heart of the Sea is really more of a film about survivor, and what you are willing to do to survive. For those hoping for a big whale versus ship film will be slightly disappointed. Sure there is some great stuff with the giant whale, especially the much promoted attack of the ship, but after that the whale pops up only a few times after that. The story of survivor is essentially what this film is really about, and it’s a mixed bag. You definitely feel and see the despair of the crew that include Matthew Joy (Murphy), who happens to be Chase’s long time friend, young Thomas (Holland), Henry Coffin (Dillane), who is Pollard’s cousin, William Bond (Beadle), and Benjamin Lawrence (Mawle), among a few others.

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The problem is we don’t get to know too much about them as the primary focus in on Chase, Pollard and Thomas. Joy gets an interesting subplot, but it doesn’t really go anywhere in the film which is a shame because Murphy is always great in anything he tackles. Young Thomas has some great moments, but the older version played by Gleeson is much more developed and well-rounded character. In fact, the only real characters we really get to know are Gleeson’s Thomas and Ben Whishaw’s Herman Melville. Anytime the two are onscreen they are remarkable, and arguably the best scenes in the film are their scenes, including one that happens after the two reveal to each other their “secrets.” It’s a rather powerful scene that really puts things in perspective.

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However, the only thing that bothered me but at the same time I can see why they wouldn’t show it, is when Thomas does reveal what they had to do in order to survive. It isn’t heavily hinted at, the audience knows what they did, but it never takes that extra step and shows it. I’m not saying the film isn’t good because they didn’t show the action, but if you’re going to go there, maybe show it, or at least part of it. Gleeson and Whishaw’s performance are great when they reach that point, but for a film to drive – or sail in this case – to this point and not really show is a bit underwhelming.

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The rest of the cast fares well too with Hemsworth proving he can be more than just the God of Thunder, and Benjamin Walker has a great moment to shine in the latter half of the film. Tom Holland – future Peter Parker/Spider-Man in the Marvel Cinematic Universe – also has his moments, but again, Gleeson’s Thomas is much more developed.

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All in all, In the Heart of the Sea has its big moments that work, but also has some parts that fall really flat that hurt the momentum going in. Whishaw and Gleeson help make the film more worthwhile and Chris Hemsworth with Cillian Murphy give great performances and bring the dread and lose of faith within the open sea.

 

In the Heart of the Sea

3.5 out of 5

‘Riddick’ Review

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Dir: David Twohy (Pitch Black, The Chronicles of Riddick)

Cast: Vin Diesel, Jordi Molla, Matt Nable, Katee Sackhoff, and Dave Bautista

Synopsis: Left for dead on a sun-scorched planet, Riddick finds himself up against an alien race of predators. Activating an emergency beacon alerts two ships: one carrying a new breed of mercenary, the other captained by a man from Riddick’s past

 

*Review Note:This is a non-spoiler review as always.”

 

Left for dead by the Necromongers (in really only cameo appearance) on the a hospitable planet, Riddick (Diesel) fights to survive against the wide variety of deadly beasts roaming this planet. His only way off is to actually call in the very people he would otherwise hope to avoid: bounty hunters.

Two different groups of bounty hunters soon arrive. The first is a down and dirty group led by Santana (Molla) and whose members include Bautista’s as Diaz, while the second team is a more paramilitary group led by Boss Johns (Nable) and Dahl (Sackhoff).

Riddick’s plan to get hold of one of their ships to escape doesn’t work out timing-wise. A massive storm arrives, bringing with it hordes of slithery, man-killing monsters. Of course, Riddick and the bounty hunters must work together in order to escape their deaths.

Riddick does go back to the old formula that started in Pitch Black, sci-fi horror with an R rating. I mean this movie holds nothing back when it comes to the death scenes, and they are good death scenes. But a good chunk of the movie is a one-man show as Riddick survives alone on the planet. Dealing the being double crossed and surviving the variety of monsters. Once the bounty hunters arrive Riddick disappears for a bit, which could be a risky for a title character, but that’s when we’re introduced to the bounty hunters.

Molla’s looks like he’s enjoying himself while playing the foul-mouthed leader of the “hot heads” group Santana. While Nable’s character,being more of the good-bad guy, has more a personal mission against Riddick and hides most of his emotion. Sackhoff, surprisingly doesn’t have much to do here except act gruff which is kind of a shame. He does have her moments to shine but it’s a shame that the only real female in the cast doesn’t have much to do. Bautista’s henchman Diaz has some scene-stealing moments. All the other bounty hunters are really just there to be victims, which really shouldn’t surprise you.

All in all, Riddick going back to the R rating probably helped the movie. The movie has the action and for the most part is a one man show bringing back Riddick to the character we all fell for in Pitch Black. With the blend of sci-fi horror, action, and humor, it is a passable sequel to the series

 

Riddick

4 out of 5