Gordon Ramsey is arguably the most popular chef in the world. But if the only ingredients on the table are rotten eggs and goat penis, I doubt even he could cook up anything remotely close to mouthwatering. Just like that, Ron Howard is a two time Oscar winner, a feat very few have achieved, but a shitty script is a shitty script. That sadly, is the best analogy I could come up with after staring at my blank screen for a solid 15 minutes. Now, don’t get me wrong, this isn’t one of those horrible pieces of crap where I spend the next 1000 words systematically pissing on each and every aspect of the movie. It is, in actuality, a movie that is definitely worth the watch in the cinema. My gripe however, is the fact that In the Heart of the Sea had the potential to be one of the best movies of the year. Heck, a few months ago, this movie received enormous Oscar buzz. However, potential and reality are two very different things altogether.
In the Heart of the Sea is based on a book that is based on another book that is loosely based on the events that took place in the 19th century involving an American whaling ship, Essex. We first see Herman Melville (Ben Whishaw), an author who tracked down the last survivor of the Essex, Thomas Nickerson (Brendan Gleeson and Tom Holland), for an interview. And when Nickerson starts his recount, our story begins. And as Nickerson says, this is a tale of two men: Captain George Pollard and his first officer, Owen Chase. This is also a tale of Godziwhale and obviously a lot of shit goes down.
The scenes involving the Godziwhale and other whales and giant waves are a spectacular delight. In the Heart of the Sea is a well directed film, has good cinematography and even better visual effects. It isn’t one of those movies with shitty CGI that makes you wonder if they threw 100 million dollars down the drain or hired the visual effects guys from Chow Kit road. No, this is legit and when the Godziwhale appears, WOW. Holy shit is it bloody amazing! In fact, every single action sequence in this movie is brilliantly shot and gets your blood pumping.
Sadly, that’s probably the only major positive I can give this movie. The script is so poorly written. But then again, what else can we expect from the man who wrote Seventh Son. In the Heart of the Sea is basically one MAD scene after another strung together by an underwhelming plot. Watching this movie, I thought of one thing – Fast and Furious 7. Except in F7, it works. One, we’re already super familiar with the characters and two, the movie doesn’t take itself seriously. It’s a bat shit testosterone driven action movie that is meant to be nothing more than a couple of hours of fun. In the Heart of the Sea is a serious drama driven movie, or at least, it attempts to be. Again, I’m not saying this is a bad movie, cause it really isn’t. I had a good time watching it. But, I am stressing that this movie could have been so much better than it actually is. This could have been one of those movies that kept me at the edge of my seats, heart pounding, worried shit for the characters, crying even. But the reality is, during those “dramatic” scenes I just went, “Oh man. Damn. That’s sad.”
Somewhere in the middle of the movie, it cuts back to the present and Herman Melville tells Nickerson something along the lines of, “I’m afraid, if I write this story, it wouldn’t be good.” I wonder if that’s a reflection of scriptwriter Charles Leavitt’s actual thoughts while writing this movie. The poor script spills over to the acting as well. There were many moments throughout that contained some cringe-worthy line delivery but it isn’t so much the actors’ fault but Charles Leavitt’s. The actors do their best with the given material, especially in scenes that had the characters struggle to survive. The problem is, those were the moments that should have really provided the emotional punch, but instead it ends up being a needle prodding your heart without actually shattering it into tiny little pieces.
In the Heart of the Sea is a fun movie that tries to ask a profound question: If you and your crew were stranded at sea, with only a few sips of water left, would you give a share of that water to a crew member that is already on the brink of death? Unfortunately, we do not care enough to ponder upon it.