In the Heart of the Sea

Chris Hemsworth, Cillian Murphy, Ben Whishaw, Tom Holland and Brendon Gleeson directed by Ron Howard in a Moby Dick story, IN THE HEART OF THE SEA, my level of excitement was grand when I heard this was releasing last March, it contained two of my recent favourite actors (Whishaw and Hemsworth) and my favourite up-and-coming kid actor who will soon be Spiderman (Holland). Then they got all excited about it and pulled it from release, not because of anything bad, because they wanted it to be an Oscar contender and, well, bad luck everyone, please hold for the length it takes a baby to come to fruition. Well finally me and Rixy Dix got to see this one on Monday with it being released to the public today from the folks at Roadshow Films. It is rated M and runs for 121mins.


in the heart of the sea movie poster image
In The Heart of the Sea | Salty Popcorn Movie Review | Movie Poster Image



The first thing you will notice is that IN THE HEART OF THE SEA is NOT the story of Moby Dick from Herman Melville, in fact Herman Melville is in the movie, that is him below played by the (better be) next Doctor Who and my future husband, Ben Whishaw. Melville is a mediocre author of the day with little confidence but a determination to hear this story, he heads to Nantucket to interview the last surviving member of the lost whaleship “Essex.”

Thomas Nickerson is at the pointy end of life (Brendan Gleeson) but when he was a teenager (Tom Holland) he was the youngest crew member on the Essex when she set sale to hunt whales for their oil. This is his recounting of the terrible time in his past he has not spoken of in over fifty years, that of everything that happened on the Essex’s final voyage.

IN THE HEART OF THE SEA: THE TRAGEDY OF THE WHALESHIP ESSEX is actually a book from Nathaniel Philbrick that was published in 2000. Philbrick wrote a “true” account of the boat that inspired Moby Dick that he got from the real Thomas Nickerson’s account. You could say Nickerson was Melville’s inspiration for Ishmael because at the time he interviewed him all other survivors had passed away or died on the journey.


ben whishaw as Herman Melville in In the Heart of the Sea
In The Heart of the Sea | Salty Popcorn Movie Review | Herman Melville (Ben Whishaw)


There is no Ahab but to some degree Ahab is the combination of the two senior men on the Essex, Owen Chase the Second Officer (Chris Hemsworth) and George Pollard the Captain (Benjamin Walker) who fought with each other constantly, one being a man who worked from the bottom and had the respect of everyone and then the man from the upper class who became Captain based on title and family.

This story has a whale in it but from what you see in the trailer you are pretty much expecting JAWS with one pissed off whale as the ocean dwelling monster however this is more about the survival of the crew of the Essex after a run in with a pissed off rogue whale bent on attacking an intruder into his herd.

The film is very clever in relating the original “true” story to what some viewers will know of Melville’s Moby Dick. It is not what I was expecting but it was a fun and a decently made journey none the less.


in the heart of the sea movie image
In The Heart of the Sea | Salty Popcorn Movie Review | Owen Coffin (Frank Dillane) and George Pollard (Benjamin Walker)


Firstly, the acting, all completely flawless. It is such a huge ensemble cast it was always going to be difficult to see enough screen time with each of them. Hemsworth gives one of his best performances, he truly has become the alpha male actor (thanks Rixy Dix) and it is nice to see him as a human in this, he does own the struggling hero in this film, a man who wants nothing but to catch his fill of whales and to get home to his wife and coming baby. He deserves more credit than he is given for his performances.

Whishaw owns his role, such a small role as Melville but he will always be one of my all time favourite actors, I just want to keep watching scene after scene with him. Cillian Murphy had a small and fairly insignificant role as third mate but his refusal to drink alcohol was alluded to but never explored or explained, his weakness and possible falling off the wagon at the end was cliched fodder – how would a very young teenage crew-member know anything about this to include in a recounting?

Gleeson is always fantastic. Tom Holland was great, he owned me in THE IMPOSSIBLE, for a first time child actor he made me ball my eyes out in that movie and I have enjoyed watching him grow on film since then, he was my second choice for the upcoming Spiderman roles and he will be brilliant. The love his character had for Owen Chase was touching, he was the man he wanted to be when he grew up and Chase wanted to be the support he needed but Nickerson was crew, there could be little more than usual support offered to a crewman, but you knew Chase would have died to keep Nickerson alive.


in the heart of the sea tom holland image
In The Heart of the Sea | Salty Popcorn Movie Review | Young Thomas Nickerson (Tom Holland)


Finally, two pics up: Owen Coffin (Frank Dillane) and George Pollard (Benjamin Walker). Both great in their respective roles, you are meant to hate Captain Pollard but at the same time his character is vulnerable and way out of his depth just trying to do what his father has told him to do. I love the developing hate and respect him and Chase have for each other.

As for Frank Dillane, his role as the younger cousin of Pollard was small but I really like Dillane, love him as the recovering junky teenager in FEAR THE WALKING DEAD and then Sam leans to me in the movie “do you know who he is?” “he is the young bloody evil Voldemort child in Deathly Hallows.” OMG – mind blown – incredible pick. Respect!


in the heart of the sea movie image
In The Heart of the Sea | Salty Popcorn Movie Review | Moby Destroys


I wanted this movie to be the Oscar deserving movie the producers were hoping for, I wanted to love it, but overall it is underwhelming. I will own it on Blu Ray because I enjoyed the tale and love all water movies (even SPEED 2 hahaha) but it was a little disappointing in totality, we were sold a whale action movie and we got about a third of a whale movie and the rest a survival tale that dawdled when leaving Nantucket. The film lacked character development in certain areas and washed over others for the sake of keeping the story afloat.

The ship is sunk – it is in the trailer so not a major spoiler but it happened too soon when they were on the water, I wanted some stalking from “Moby,” that just came too quickly, then the scene Owen Chase stares into the eye of the whale, we could work it out, kind of, but Chase is a whale hunter, a killer in the true sense of Japanese scientific bullshit, I know he saw it’s possible outcomes but I am certain this did not happen in “real-life.” It just seemed a little too heroic and grandiose.

And the green screen, a hell of a lot of the movie is some pretty poor green screen scenes, I was a little disappointed in this and expected a little more from Mr Howard but they were trying to achieve scenes with a pissed off whale so I get that it required a lot of CGI.

And finally, while a lot of the cinematography and gothic visuals of the film are beautiful there was too many macro styled tight close up shots that felt jarring and out of place; like the image on the start of a rope, close ups of fish being chopped up and many many more, was this trying to humour the 3D versions of the film? which I must add, completely unnecessary.


in the heart of the sea chris hemsworth image
In The Heart of the Sea | Salty Popcorn Movie Review | Owen Chase (JK’s lover)


IN THE HEART OF THE SEA mostly looks amazing, it has a great ensemble cast and the story is solid but still with all of these elements it comes across as underwhelming, I will still buy it though. If you love Hemsworth, water movies, some history on film, if overly dramatised, and you would be interested in the “true” story that inspired one of the greatest books ever written then get yo landlubbing asses to a cinema at your earliest convenience.


3 and a Half Pops



Jason King is the owner and editor of Salty Popcorn and Spooning Australia. He is a movie, food, restaurant, wine, chocolate, bacon, burger and brussels sprouts addict. He is a member of the Film Critics Circle of Australia and has been in the Australian movie industry for 25yrs. He loves watching people trip over and is Leonardo DiCaprio’s biggest fan. All the social media links to the right and up will allow you to abuse, troll or stalk him :).