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Watching the trailer for “In the Heart of the Sea” back last summer I was certainly intrigued, as the name Ron Howard and epic sea faring film seemed to go hand in hand. However the tepid reviews that poured in had me second guessing that anticipation, which in turn left me waiting for the home video release to satiate my curiosity. Now that I watch the film I understand the criticisms. The voyage tries it’s best to be epic and adventuresome, but there are just too many down turns in the plot where long stretches of time passes without anything interesting going on, only to surge upward in a burst of excitement. Based off of a true story, that supposedly was the basis for Herman Melville’s “Moby Dick”, “In the Heart of the Sea” tries it’s best to be a rousing adventure story, but feels rather flaccid and uninspired. They say truth is stranger than fiction, but here it seems that Melville embellished enough to make fiction much more engaging than the truth.

This tale starts in the “future” for our adventure, as Melville (played by the seemingly everywhere Ben Whishaw) goes to Thomas Nickerson (played by Brendan Gleeson as an old man and Thomas Holland as a boy), one of the only surviving shipmates of the Essex. Rumors had swirled around for years about the fate of the Essex, but most of the survivors had long since vanished. Bringing every last cent to his name, Melville begs Nickerson for the truth. A truth that may even up being more than what he bargained for.

What destroyed a ship was not a whale, not a storm, but rather two men who couldn’t get along. Captain George Pollard (Benjamin Walker “Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter”) and first mate Owen Chase (Chris Hemsworth). Pollard is a new captain in a rank that SHOULD have been Chase’s. Setting sail to acquire whale oil for their masters in Nantucket, the two men soon realize that they’re in for more than they bargained this season. Pollard’s arrogance and naivety soon bring the crew and Chase at odds, as they barely escape a squall with their lives. Soon they find that most of the whales seem to have been picked clean, but after a run in with a Spanish captain (played by Jordi Molla) they learn of an area that is just TEAMING with them. The only problem is that it is guarded by a 100 foot long white whale that nearly destroyed their ship. Thinking it just a joke, Pollard and Chase go hunting only to find exactly what they were looking for. Whales EVERYWHERE and they’re all ripe of the picking. That is until the mysterious white whale makes an appearance and does the impossible. It destroys the Essex and leaves the men stranded in boats.

Barely making it out of the Essex alive, the surviving sailors limp away with three boats, only to have the white whale follow them. Crushing one more boat and leaving them stranded on a desert island. There it becomes a matter of will to live, vs. the crushing reality of being stranded. Putting aside their differences, Pollard and Chase helm the remaining two boats across the vast ocean, doing whatever it took in order to get back home. Even if that means becoming a little less human in the process.

“In the Heart of the Sea” is an oddly paced film. It sets itself up for this grand adventure in the way of “Moby Dick”, and just ends up petering out half way through the film. We get to see Chase and Pollard at each other’s throats and see their whaling adventures, but the film really peaks right about the time the Essex gets torn apart. The rest is another hour of them floating through the ocean and watching the white whale follow them. The movie is certainly big budget, and Ron Howard is a master at keeping the viewer involved in the story, but at the end of the credits I kind of scratched my head and wondered “that was it”? That was the big dark secret they were whispering about at the beginning of the film? I’ve read “Moby Dick” several times and seen SEVERAL adaptations, so I know and love a good whale story with the best of them. However “In the Heart of the Sea” seems to have all the right pieces. All the right actors, and all the right materials for a good movie, but ends up just being rather interesting and a little bit dull at times.

As much as the experience was rather underwhelming, I have to say that it is not because of the actors. Cillian Murphy and Chris Hemsworth play well with each other and I enjoyed Benjamin Walker makes a fantastically loathsome Captain Pollard. By the midpoint of the movie you’re really hoping that the whale would just pull a Jonah on us and swallow him whole. However, the direction was rather inconsistent and the pace much the same. Especially with the film hinging on the big dark secret that Thomas Knickerson was holding in his mind, but once that’s revealed you have to sit back and go “that was all”?


Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of action and peril, brief startling violence, and thematic material

Video :4stars:
Shot with Canon and Arri Alexa digital cameras, “In the Heart of the Sea” has a very polished look to it, with a strange green filter to the lens. Being at sea it gives that greenish tint a glossy bright look with extremely brilliant white levels and some fantastic detail to go along with it. Watch the water mist and haze over the screen when the whale breaches the water, or the dirt and grime embedded in Owen Chase’s long hair, or the blood trickling down his face after a splinter of the ship gashes his face. There are golden overtones that accompany some of the shots giving a slightly yellowish skin tone at times, but contrast mainly stays in balanced. The film SHOULD have been a 4.5/5 without question, but here is where I noticed the only major flaw, and that is the aggressive banding that shows up at times. Notice the very first shot of the movie as we coast up through the water. It starts there, but every time the movie gets really dark some rather egregious banding comes back full force (sometimes all over the screen). It’s lucky that the movie doesn’t have all that many really dark shots otherwise this transfer could have gone south in a hurry. As such it is a really nice looking transfer that just so happens to be marred form some artifacting.

Audio :4.5stars:
Dolby Atmos titles have been getting more and more common (especially with the new release of Ultra HD 4K Blu-ray releases..hint, watch for some of those soon), and their inclusion is one of the more exciting moments me as a reviewer. “In the Heart of the Sea” comes with a bombastic and absolutely breathtaking audio track that just brings the sea into your living room. Aggressive and ferociously powerful it throbs with lfe from every corner of the room, and once the ship gets in big trouble with the famed white whale my entire room was just quivering. However the bass is never over powering and cooked too hot like some movies like to do, but instead stays focused and offers restraint when required. The dialog is always front and center with strong definition at all times. The dynamic range is incredible, with moments of soft whispering ambient noises flowing all around the listener to the sudden crack of a mast splitting in two as the whale side swipes the Essex. Simply put, an incredible audio track that really flexes the might of your speaker system.

Extras :3.5stars:

• Whale Tales: Melville’s Untold Story
• The Hard Life of a Whaler
• Chase & Pollard: A Man of Means and A Man of Courage
• LIGHTNING STRIKES TWICE: The Real-Life Sequel to Moby Dick
• Commanding the Heart of the Sea
• Deleted and Extended Scenes
• Ron Howard: Captain’s Log

Overall: :4stars:

A good, but not amazing film, “In the Heart of the Sea” is an entertaining seafaring romp that makes for an enjoyable ride, as long as you don’t go in expecting the next great epic movie. Ron Howard does a magnificent job at bringing a whale boat’s experience to life and does a good job at pointing out that fiction is usually a twisting of the truth. Even if done unintentionally. Dolby Atmos strikes once more with a rocking audio track and the video looks impressive as well. The best part of the whole package is a healthy array of extras that hold quite a bit of goodies to pour over, making the disc a good bit more valuable in my eyes. Definitely worth a solid watch.

Movie: :3stars:
Video: :4stars:
Audio: :4.5stars:
Extras: :3.5stars:

HTS Overall Score:79

Additional Information:

Starring: Chris Hemsworth, Cillian Murphy, Benjamin Walker
Directed by: Ron Howard
Written by: Charles Leavitt, Rick Jaffa, Amanda Silver
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 AVC
Audio: English: Dolby Atmos (Dolby TrueHD 7.1 core), English, French, Spanish, Portuguese DD 5.1
Studio: Universal
Rated: PG-13
Runtime: 122 minutes
Own In the Heart of the Sea on Blu-ray 3D Combo Pack, Blu-ray, or DVD on March 8 or Own It Early on Digital HD on February 23!

Buy In the Heart of the Sea On Blu-ray at Amazon
Buy In the Heart of the Sea 3D On Blu-ray at Amazon

Recommendation: Worth A Watch

More about Mike

1,546 Posts
Thanks for the review Mike. I remember seeing the trailer and being interested in watching this one, but I don't even remember it's theatrical release at all.

I will likely definitely have to check this one out.

379 Posts
I watched it last night on Blu-ray.

I enjoyed the movie. I am addicted to movies that are based on true events
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