On a cold and foreboding Nantucket eve, Herman Melville (Ben Whishaw) approaches a boarding home and residence of the last known survivor (Brendan Gleeson) of the Essex in order to gain a deposition on the disastrously horrific expedition as research for his latest, all-consuming whaling epic. Still trembling at the recollection nearly 30 years on, the sailor recalls his days as an adolescent aboard the recently renovated and stately ship under the command of an inexperienced snobbish captain (Bennjamin Walker) and a brash first mate (Chris Hemsworth), and how pride and a white whale of untold size and majesty left the crew shipwrecked and resorted to untold terrors. From a novel by Nathaniel Philbrick, Ron Howard’s In the Heart of the Sea is frustratingly inconsistent on several levels, ranging from exhausting to exhilarating and muddled to magnificent. An intriguing narrative structure is undone by a simplistic story that favors exhibition over substance and these disparities even extend to its use of 3D which is at times exemplary, brilliantly blending fore, middle, and background and perfectly muddled and incoherent at other times. Hemsworth is likable but the story is confused on how to present his character and, more dire, on how to achieve its lofty aims.
** 1/2 out of ****