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With: Chris Hemsworth, Benjamin Walker, Cillian Murphy, Tom Holland, Joseph Mawle, Ben Whishaw, Paul Anderson, Edward Ashley, Gary Beadle, Richard Bremmer, Frank Dillane, Michelle Fairley, Osy Ikhile, Sam Keeley, Jordi Molla, Charlotte Riley, Jamie Sives, Donald Sumpter
Written by: Charles Leavitt, Rick Jaffa, Amanda Silver, based on a book by Nathaniel Philbrick
Directed by: Ron Howard
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for intense sequences of action and peril, brief startling violence, and thematic material
Running Time: 121
Date: 12/11/2015

In the Heart of the Sea (2015)

2 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Whale Bait

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Director Ron Howard teams with actor Chris Hemsworth for the second time, but while their Rush seemed fresh and set at ground level, their new sea tale In the Heart of the Sea feels soggy. It's almost like a perfunctory place-holder in the holiday release schedule.

Telling the apparently true story behind the novel Moby Dick, it begins as Herman Melville (Ben Whishaw) interviews Tom Nickerson (Brendan Gleeson), the last survivor of the doomed whaling ship Essex. In flashback we see the young Tom (Tom Holland) boarding the ship captained by inexperienced rich boy George Pollard Jr. (Benjamin Walker) and with a cocky, experienced first mate Owen Chase (Chris Hemsworth), who has dreamed of being captain himself; this leads to a very predictable conflict between the two men, kicking off as the captain idiotically decides to sail into a squall over the protests of Mr. Chase. They eventually run into a great white whale, which is actually more like a dirty white, covered in what looks like scars and wounds, with a bite taken out of its immense tail fin.

I saw the film in 3D, and the effects are far from the best I've ever seen; the whale, ocean, and ships all turn gray and smeary during the action scenes. Not to mention that the sound effects and score routinely drown out the dialogue, and none of the characters really come to life. To put a point to it, the whale sinks the ship, and then In the Heart of the Sea turns into a "starving-and-dying-of-thirst-stranded-in-a-lifeboat" movie, the fifth such movie I've seen in 3 years; frankly, I can't take anymore. (This is not entertainment.) Then the whale follows the lifeboats around and randomly attacks, like a larger version of Jaws: The Revenge. I kind of liked the Melville sequences, though.

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