The Bock’s Office: ‘Heart of the Sea’ — Call me impressed | CraigDailyPress.com

The Bock’s Office: ‘Heart of the Sea’ — Call me impressed

The crew of the Essex gets more than they bargained for in "In the Heart of the Sea." The movie is about the incident in the early 19th century that inspired the novel "Moby-Dick."

One of the greats of American literature has already been captured and mimicked on film enough times that to try it again would be like taking on a beast of the briny deep in nothing but a dinghy. Still, "In the Heart of the Sea" shows us there's more than one way to attack a huge project.

If you go…

"In the Heart of the Sea," rated PG-13

Rating: 3 out of 4 stars

Running time: 121 minutes

Starring: Chris Hemsworth, Benjamin Walker, Cillian Murphy and Ben Whishaw

Now playing at Wildhorse Stadium Cinemas.

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In 1819, the boom of the whale oil industry makes the New England community of Nantucket a tidy profit, getting as many ships out in the water as they can. After many successful voyages, seasoned seaman Owen Chase (Chris Hemsworth) looks forward to commanding his own vessel, only to find out he'll be serving as first mate under the completely inexperienced Captain George Pollard (Benjamin Walker).

The animosity between the two men as they set sail increases with bad weather and a shortage of the animals they seek, which means the crew must travel farther than they expected.

As they push on, a fellow mariner gives them a cryptic warning that an untouched stretch of water will get them all they need but only for a terrible price. The prediction means little to anyone onboard until their ship, the Essex, is beset by a whale fiercer and more massive than anything they've seen in their lives, the resulting wreckage leaving the men with few options to get home.

Hemsworth is well-cast and often downright hypnotic as the man who should be captain, a husband and expectant father forced to answer to someone else due only to not having the right pedigree. Walker matches him as the inevitably outclassed Pollard, a scion of the whaling business whose first voyage just had to be the one that involved an unpredictable cetacean.

Cillian Murphy is fine as second mate Matthew Joy, as is Tom Holland as starry-eyed cabin boy Thomas Nickerson, but it's Brendan Gleeson who ties it all together as Nickerson three decades later, reluctantly recounting his time at sea to an insistent writer named Herman Melville (Ben Whishaw).

The template of Melville's masterpiece "Moby-Dick" can be seen in the arrangement of characters based on real people, Nickerson the closest thing to inspiration for narrator Ishmael, while Chase is more like Starbuck. However, if you're looking for Ahab, it isn't Pollard, rather the concept of whaling as a whole and the men willing to sacrifice sailors by the dozen to gain a little more filthy lucre that are the epitome of the maniacal captain.

We don't need an eco-moral here, though, and director Ron Howard wisely downplays that part of this true story for a finely crafted seafaring saga. The namesake of "Moby-Dick," much like its literary likeness, only plays into the action here and there, the dramatic tension coming from the rivalry between the men in charge and the drastic means they and those in their stead took to in order to survive, stranded thousands of miles from the coast of South America.

A harpoon won't do you much good when there's nothing around to spear.

Much like the more famous book that came from its narrative, "In the Heart of the Sea" depicts the feel of being in the middle of the ocean from the sense of discovery to the near-madness and soul-searching isolation to the inevitable boredom.

Yes, it may be a giant of the genre, but millions of high school English students can't be totally wrong!

Contact Andy Bockelman at 970-875-1793 or Contact Andy Bockelman at 970-875-1793 or abockelman@CraigDailyPress.com or follow him on Twitter @TheBocksOffice.Contact Andy Bockelman at 970-875-1793 or abockelman@CraigDailyPress.com or follow him on Twitter @TheBocksOffice.

If you go…

“In the Heart of the Sea,” rated PG-13

Rating: 3 out of 4 stars

Running time: 121 minutes

Starring: Chris Hemsworth, Benjamin Walker, Cillian Murphy and Ben Whishaw

Now playing at Wildhorse Stadium Cinemas.

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