Now streaming–Genre actors collide in Ron Howard’s In the Heart of the Sea

Review by C.J. Bunce

Thirty years after Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home forever put a stake in the ground that whaling is a bad thing, you wouldn’t think a true-life whaling story would fare well, especially in movie theaters.  And you’d be right–director Ron Howard′s In the Heart of the Sea unfortunately lost more money than it cost to make.  And yet Howard’s deft direction combines some of genredom’s top stars with a solid script in a worthy interpretation of Herman Melville’s inspiration for Moby Dick apt to provide any audience with something to cheer about.  Far and Away meets Apollo 13, sea disaster and cannibalism in this 2015 release, a prime survival story now streaming on multiple platforms.

It begins far after the end of the disaster.  Author Herman Melville, played by James Bond’s Q actor Ben Whishaw, agrees to give all his money to a survivor of the 1820 sinking of the Nantucket whaling vessel the Essex, to tell him what really happened.  A legend by 1850, was this story of Americans stranded at sea who turned to eating their own comrades true?  And what of this white whale that sought vengeance Jaws and The Meg style on them?  Surely that couldn’t be true?  The survivor telling the tale was Tom Nickerson, played both by Harry Potter’s Mad-Eye Moody actor Brendan Gleeson, telling the story to Melville as an older man, and Spider-Man: Far From Home actor Tom Holland as a cabin boy on his first voyage.

The charisma of Marvel Thor actor Chris Hemsworth as the second-in-command of the Essex pushes Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Slayer and Jessica Jones actor Benjamin Walker′s captain into more of a supporting role–the captain born of privilege and his second-in-command working his way up from being orphaned in his youth.  Their mission is to acquire 2,000 barrels of whale oil, the fuel of the day that lit the world.

Other supporting actors include Cillian Murphy (28 Days Later), Charlotte Riley (Edge of Tomorrow), Michelle Fairley (Hermione’s mom in Harry Potter), Frank Dillane (Tom Riddle in Harry Potter), and Paul Anderson (Doctor Who).

Director Ron Howard nicely tempers all of this within Charles Levitt′s script, based on the book by Nathaniel Philbrick–what begins as a lion hunt ends up a tale of justice for whalekind.  It turns out there was a real, giant white whale, and with echoes of Orca, Jaws, and maybe even Godzilla, the film becomes far more fun when the tables are turned against the hunters.  Which leads to the subject of American-on-American cannibalism.

Rodeo FX and others supplied some brilliant views of historic Nantucket, of a ship at sea, and life aboard ship in the style of Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World, Horatio Hornblower, and To the Ends of the EarthAnthony Dod Mantle′s (28 Days Later) cinematography is superb and it’s accompanied by a rousing score by Roque Baños (The Commuter, Evil Dead).

If you’re looking for your next adventure story and have tried Kon-Tiki and As Told at the Explorer’s Club, check out Ron Howard’s In the Heart of the Sea, streaming now here on Amazon, and also available on Vudu an other platforms, and on Blu-ray and DVD here at Amazon.

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