In the Heart of the Sea has the unenviable twin tasks of a) going up against the new Star Wars film and b) trying to make a whale movie half as good as Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home.
Ben Whishaw, in his ongoing quest for global domination, plays Herman Melville, listening to the story that would inspire Moby Dick. He meets an old Irish sailor named Tom Nickerson (Brendon Gleeson), who tells his story through flashback, even though he wasn’t present for most of the scenes. So far so stupid.
The story itself follows a whaling ship, which is sunk by a giant whale, leaving the crew to fight for survival. The crew comprises a variety of actors (and accents), including Chris Hemsworth, Cillian Murphy and Tom “Spider-Man” Holland as the young (American) Nickerson. He never explains how he turned Irish. Presumably some sort of trauma.
Under the steady navigation of Ron Howard, In the Heart of the Sea sails through boat-movie clichés with workmanlike monotony. It’s hard to pinpoint the exact point at which we stop caring. The opening scene? The 3D sea-sickness? Or when they start killing the lovely whales? It hardly seems fair. After all, they did give us Anthony Hopkins.
The whales themselves are stunningly generated, deserving awards at the Orcas. This really should have been a fun monster movie, but the waterlogged drama and bone-dry screenplay make the film feel as long and bloated as a whale. It’s not a spoiler to reveal the idiotic final line: “Oil from the ground? Fancy that!” People have been taking oil from the ground since the 4th century, Moby Thick.