Here’s something I must confess about myself: I have an irrational fear of whales. It’s always been like that, I just can’t explain it (though I’ll blame Pinocchio for it). I have always been wary of sea creatures in general, but the thought of swimming underwater and suddenly come across a massive creature with weird teeth has always haunted me in my dreams. I know, how on Earth would I find a whale in Southeast Spain, where you can walk more than 2 km into the sea and the water is still knee-deep? Whatever, they creep me out.
That being said, I was lucky enough to attend a Cineworld Secret Screening this week, and as I expected, the chosen film was no other than In the Heart of the Sea, the true story Herman Melville’s Moby-Dick was based on.
The story is divided into two plots. In the first one, we see Ben Whishaw’s Melville in 1850 visiting Thomas Nickerson, the last survivor of the ill-fated Essex, to hear his version of the story. Then the story goes back to 1820, where we meet the Essex crew, which includes first mate Owen Chase (Chris Hemsworth), Matthey Joy (Cillian Murphy) and many others you will probably recognise from Game of Thrones. Without revealing too much, things go wrong because a massive white whale (I’m still shivering) sinks the ship and the men are forced to survive with just three boats. So what you thought would be a Moby-Dick retelling is actually a very harsh story about survival and the morals that go with it when you are about to die.
And a bigger moral issue, of course: killing whales just to get oil is WRONG. Even I, the whale-hater, was completely demoralised during the whale-killing scenes. It was riveting and Ron Howard definitely succeeded in achieving the reaction he wanted us to have.
You can tell that Howard and Hemsworth are comfortable working with each other. They know what the movie needs, and I was pleasantly surprised to see that this film has managed to showcase Hemsworth’s acting chops, so often overlooked because of his god-like handsomeness. His performance throughout the movie, especially the last thirty minutes, proves that there is more to the Australian than meets the eye.
The rest of the cast also delivers a powerful performance, but after Hemsworth, the ones who stand out the most are Cillian Murphy (are you even surprised?) and newcomer Tom Holland, who does a more than decent job as young Thomas –but don’t ask me about Spiderman, I’m still against having a third reboot in less than ten years. But I must acknowledge that all the actors playing members of the crew deserve a medal, because I can’t imagine what it must have been like to lose that great amount of weight to play castaways.
If there is something to complain about, it’s the way the film is edited after the Essex sinks. Things happen too fast afterwards, and I think that there are many scenes from the first half of the movie that could have been cut out to leave more space for what I consider to be the most important part of the story –and I would have been okay with fewer whale scenes, too.
So no, this film didn’t make me be less afraid of whales. If anything, it has reassured my decision of never, ever, ever sail deep into the sea. Not that I was going to do that anytime soon, anyway.