In the Heart of the Sea tells the story of the ill-fated Essex, a Nantucket ship that was destroyed by the enormous sperm whale it was hunting in 1820. Flash forward to 1850, when a then unknown Herman Melville (Ben Whishaw) shows up to the home of Tom Nickerson (Brendan Gleeson), the last survivor of the Essex. Melville brings with him an envelope filled with his life-savings which he offers to Nickerson in exchange for his story, one that he has never spoken of before. Nickerson is a drunk who refuses to speak of his time on the Essex, but Melville eventually talks him into it as we are flashed back to 1820 where a very young Tom Nickerson (Tom Holland) is on his first hunting expedition.
Tensions run hot between captain George Pollard Jr. (Benjamin Walker) and his first mate Owen Chase (Chris Hemsworth). This is mainly due to Pollard, who is only captain because he was born into a wealthy family, having zero experience and Chase being relegated to first mate after being promised the position of captain. Things only get worse when they attempt to hunt down a huge white whale that destroys The Essex leaving what’s left of its crew to gather into small life boats and drift into the sea. The remaining crew drift for weeks all the while wasting away, questioning their mortality, and are eventually forced to do things they’ll never speak of again in order to survive – hence the older Nickerson’s reluctance to tell his story to Melville.
It’s an action-packed film, but there’s something missing in the story. I found myself siding with the whale. I wanted more conflict between the captain and his first mate, maybe more fighting. All in all, it’s an entertaining film and definitely one that needs to be seen on the big screen.
Cast: Chris Hemsworth, Benjamin Walker, Cillian Murphy, Ben Whishaw, Tom Holland, Brendan Gleeson, Jordi Mollà.