In the Heart of the Sea

Directed By: Ron Howard

Starring: Chris Hemsworth, Benjamin Walker, Cillian Murphy, Tom Holland, Ben Whishaw, Brendan Gleeson, and Michelle Fairley

Twas the night before Star Wars, when all through the house
Not a viewer was stirring, not even a mouse.
The light sabers were hung by the chimney with care,
In hopes that St Luke soon would be there.

It's the quiet before the storm this weekend.  Yes, the force awakens next weekend and will be calling all moviegoers to the box office.  Before then, however, we've got very few new offerings.  Everyone wants to steer clear of Star Wars, and I don't blame them.  There is one exception though, and that's Ron Howard with his Moby Dick-based period piece In the Heart of the Sea.  Having seen the adventure film, I must say that the force is not strong with veteran director Howard at this particular moment in time.

Herman Melville (Ben Whishaw) is looking for a story to tell, and he turns to Thomas Nickerson (Brendan Gleeson) and his wife Mrs. Nickerson (Michelle Fairley) to discuss the sinking of the whaling ship known as the Essex.  Though reluctant, Thomas recounts his experiences on the Essex.  It all starts with Owen Chase (Chris Hemsworth), a man who has built up a strong reputation in town in after having worked in the whaling business for quite some time now.  Ready to lead his own whaling boat and having received the word of his employer that he would captain his next voyage, he's disappointed to learn that this honor is instead going to George Pollard, Jr. (Benjamin Walker).  Still the First Mate and joined by his longtime friend Matthew Joy (Cillian Murphy), Chase finds himself in an unsavory quandary.  Chase must answer to a man who has no experience as a whaling captain and is only in his position based on his lineage.  A young Thomas Nickerson (Tom Holland) gets a front row seat for the clash to come.  He just doesn’t know that a white whale will interfere.

In the Heart of the Sea is an okay film with poor timing.  With Star Wars: The Force Awakens at our doorsteps, a whale adventure featuring Avengers: Age of Ultron star Chris Hemsworth is simply not worthy at this time.  Director Ron Howard does a decent job at executing this period piece, but he gives us something that's a far cry from America's epic, something not worthy of Homer.  Yes, Howard offers beautiful visuals marked by gorgeous golden cinematography.  Yes, he pushes his cast to deliver very physical performances.  Yes, his film boasts a lovely melodic score from composer Roque Baños.  However, In the Heart of the Sea is simply not an interesting film with a compelling story worth telling.  All the solid filmmaking in the world can't push a dull movie to greatness.

Whale movies historically don't get the job done.  With Master and Commander meeting Free Willy here in In the Heart of the Sea, Ron Howard's latest film isn't exactly bucking the historical trend.  The white whale at the center of this story makes few appearances, and doesn't dazzle in the moments he does have on screen.  The special effects may be grand, but the thrills aren't there.  Howard doesn't personify the whale that would pass into legend as Moby Dick.  Simply put, that spark of movie magic is sorely missing, and it cannot go unnoticed

The actors deliver very physical performances.  Going the route of Cast Away's Tom Hanks, Chris Hemsworth loses a tremendous amount of weight to become First Mate Owen Chase when the sailor is shipwrecked.  Otherwise the charming, slightly arrogant leading man we saw in Rush, his previous collaboration with Ron Howard, Hemsworth delivers a laudable performance that generally resonates.  Other standouts include Cillian Murphy as the endearing Matthew Joy and Brendan Gleeson as the older Thomas Nickerson, a regretful guide through this tough moment in his personal history.

Poorly timed and only decently executed, In the Heart of the Sea will soon be forgotten as moviegoers feel the force flowing through them.  The trip to Nantucket isn't exactly worth it this holiday season.  Moreover, the Moby Dick period piece gets a 0.06% rating.  Have a few rounds of beer with this one.