ADVENTURE; 2hr 2min
STARRING: Chris Hemsworth, Ben Whishaw, Brendan Gleeson, Benjamin Walker, Cillian Murphy
Waiting game: Hemsworth
When director Ron Howard is really firing (Apollo 13, A Beautiful Mind ), the monumental becomes a shared intimacy. Based on Nathaniel Philbrick's 2000 nonfiction book, the proficient theatrics of In the Heart of the Sea never fully chime to that soul-stirring crescendo but the story is monumental: its 1820 sinking by an unforgiving sperm whale of the American whaling ship Essex and the subsequent stranding at sea of the crew gave rise to Herman Melville's novel Moby-Dick.
Howard's Essex is a beauty, setting sail from Nantucket with windblown grandeur even while tensions bubble between rough-nut first mate Owen Chase (Hemsworth) and novice captain George Pollard (Walker). As recalled to Melville (Whishaw) decades later by the crew's sole, crusty survivor (Gleeson), whaling is utterly bloody and the voyage overall is frustrating, exhilarating, and finally terrifying, when after 14 months the Essex meets her match. What befalls the men then in the desperate wreckage of the backwash is made all the more horrific by the taunting beauty of the world's end. So too, the ensemble cast is never more present than when the crew is eroding, piece by ravaged piece.