Augustana Observer

Augustana Observer

Augustana Observer

Howard film worth a “sea”

Photo courtesy of Warner Bros.

Ron Howard, director of movies like “A Beautiful Mind” and “The Da Vinci Code” finally released his newest movie, “In the Heart of the Sea” on Dec. 11. The movie, based on the true story that inspired the American classic “Moby Dick,” was certainly no shortage of beautiful cinematic music over highly dramatized scenes, as has come to be expected.

Describing the cursed voyage of the Nantucket whaler ship the Essex, Howard uses an endless stream of obstructed shots that play with the camera and the audience’s ability to focus on the main subject on the screen.

Starting with a scene establishing none other than Herman Melville himself, we see two sides of desperation: one man is willing to spend his life savings on a story while another man spends his life savings on alcohol to forget it.

Pursuing an obsession, Melville finally convinces Thomas Nickerson, the haunted, last remaining survivor who was 14 at the time of the Essex sinking, to release the memories that he has suffered in silence for nearly three decades.

Finally, as Nickerson’s recollections begin, we meet the two clashing heroes (or villains depending on your view) of the film: First Mate Owen Chase, played by Chris Hemsworth, and Captain George Pollard, Jr., played by Benjamin Walker. Chase, a bitter man from a non-seafaring family, faces the struggles of social class, having a promise rescinded to be put under an inexperienced but wealthy captain.

The scenes with the great whale are particularly excellent, though if you were expecting the whale to be pure white, Howard leaves that to the belugas. Instead he creates a monster of a sperm whale with an uncountable amount of scars,and a piebald smattering of white. The beast, rarely shown in its entirety, is left as much to the imagination as to the screen and yet has a strangely human quality that serves as an homage to the overwhelming fears we all face throughout our lives.

Despite bearing a PG-13 rating, Howard leaves little detail to the imagination in his depiction of the whale hunting trade which kept the fires of the world shining bright for over a century. Those with a weak stomach for blood, gore, suicide and implied cannibalism should probably avoid this movie.

However, for any interested in the recent series of historical fiction movies that have been flying into theatres recently, this would be an excellent movie to sit down and thoroughly enjoy. Though having fewer action scenes than might be expected for a seafaring odyssey, Howard more than compensates by diving deep into the world of the animalistic urges that lie just beneath the face of a person and what happens when they become willing to sacrifice civility for pure survival.

If one feels they have the stomach and the patience, this mix between “Cast Away” and “Jaws” is a two hour feature that pulls no punches in historical detail, the broken human mind, and the sheer minuity of humans in the grand scheme of the earth and sea. Be aware that walking out, you have to decide for yourself who really is the monster: human or beast?

“In the Heart of the Sea” is currently showing in local theatres and IMAX 3D. Ticket prices may vary based on whether one wants to experience the great beast in two or three dimensions, both of which are fully commendable.

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Howard film worth a “sea”