Sunday, December 13, 2015

In the Heart of the Sea

Kind of not worth saying much about this one, although the way it moved around the schedule seems odd - I remember seeing previews over a year ago for when it was going to be a spring 2015 release, only to be pushed back as an apparent awards contender, which seems odd, because it's really not very good, and one would think the people at Warner Brothers would have seen that. As I say in the review, maybe that's because it's not actively disappointing until you sit back and think about it and the good parts are hard to recall but all the things that don't really work come quickly.

Also, I don't recall this being planned for a 3D release before, which makes me wonder how late in the game the conversion was done. I saw it in 2D, but it does not seem like one which would convert particularly well - too many close shots, cinematography that was designed to look flat even when the illusion of depth was possible, etc. A lot of places seemed to skip or go light on 3D screenings, which seems to be a good call. Seems like a somewhat desperate attempt to squeeze a bit more cash out of a movie that isn't going to be around long.

Ah, well - Star Wars will probably clear it off a lot of screens next week, and we'll forget all about it.

In the Heart of the Sea

* * (out of four)
Seen 12 December 2015 in Somerville Theatre #5 (first-run, DCP)

So much time is spent during In the Heart of the Sea on reminding the viewer that this tale was the inspiration for Moby Dick that said viewer might find himself or herself wanting that as opposed to the movie they're watching. We know Herman Melville (here played by Ben Whishaw) is going to refine this story into something brilliant, and we never get the sense that this film's creators are going to do better than okay.

Scenes of Melville visiting Tom Nickerson (Brendan Gleeson), the last survivor of the 1820 voyage of the Essex, a Nantucket whaling ship that, officially, ran aground. When Melville and Nickerson's wife (Michelle Fairley) finally coax the real story out of him, it's revealed that the ship, voyaging far from land in the Pacific during a particularly lean voyage, encountered a gigantic whale that not only wrecked the ship, but seemed to continue on the trail of the survivors in the small whaling boats they used to escape. Desperate to simply survive, the conflict between ship's captain George Pollard (Benjamin Walker), a young and inexperienced scion of a notable Nantucket whaling family, and first mate Owen Chase (Chris Hemsworth), born to farmers but an extremely gifted seaman, is rather petty.

There's a sort of truth in fiction that is harder to find in stories that hew closer to actual events, an ability to focus, isolate, and emphasize; it may lead to a simplified story, but there are worse problems for a film to have. This one, for instance, spends a lot of time setting up various elements - the conflict in the backgrounds of Pollard and Chase, the extreme lengths of whaling voyages, the unpleasantness of certain parts of the job - only to shove them very far on the back-burner when it comes time for the grueling fight for survival to start. There's honesty to that; most whalers were likely practical enough people to not waste time on such things when their lives are on the line. The trouble is, even that aspect of it isn't given much time - the whalers' struggle to survive seldom feels like an extension of who they were before the Essex was destroyed, beyond Chase being quite practical and capable.

Full review on EFC.

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