I really wanted to like this film. Alas, Ron Howard (usually ‘Mr Dependable’ in the director’s chair) has guided this big-budget seafaring adventure straight onto the reef. In the Heart of the Sea is ambitious but fails to develop its own identity, instead playing out like a highlight reel from better movies.
The film is based on the true story that inspired Moby Dick. As such, I entered the theatre expecting a hearty helping of gritty, high-fidelity historical whaleboat action. And, after a promising prologue, I delighted at the prospect of an enthralling high stakes captain-vs-first-mate joust (think Mutiny on the Bounty). These and other exciting elements are certainly present, but Heart fails to capitalise. Is it a survival epic? A monster movie? A period drama? It wants to be all these things but there’s only so much screen-time to go around.
The film benefits from handsome cinematography; and Benjamin Walker is solid as Captain Pollard (conversely Chris Hemsworth parades about with a silly accent, unaware of his lot as chiselled Hollywood eye-candy). But Heart is too enamoured with Moby Dick to strike out on its own. Revisit Master and Commander for high-seas adventure with more wind in its sails.