Coming along on the crest of a wave following their successful collaboration on Rush, Ron Howard directs Chris Hemsworth again in a big seafaring action-adventure In The Heart of the Sea, an adaptation of Nathaniel Pilcrick's novel itself based on Herman Melville's classic Moby Dick.
Told in flashback by the last living survivor of the Essex disaster, Thomas Nicholson (Brendan Gleeson) to a determined Herman Melville (Ben Whishaw) who is eager to hear about the truth of the Essex following the whitewash of an inquiry.
Nicholson tells the story and how the two conflicting attitudes and backgrounds of Captain Pollard (Benjamin Walker) and First Mate Owen Chase (Hemsworth) spelt trouble for the cursed voyage from the departure.
With a demand to get 200 barrels of whale oil within a year paramount to the voyage, the men are at loggerheads with each other before they encounter the great big whale in the waters of the western coast of South America. The ship is destroyed by the whale, and the men abandon ship yet 2000 miles from land.
Then begins the story of survival in the vein of Tom Hanks in Castaway or 1992's Alive, where men must bear witness to deplorable things and abominable acts to survive in the harsh waters more akin to a desert than an open expanse of water.
Ron Howard has done men marooned miles from home before in Apollo 13 but this larger crew allows a greater vantage of human experience on this palette of man versus nature. The cast are excellent throughout led by the ever improving Hemsworth who displays a stoic heroism befitting the role, slowly becoming a key leading man in Hollywood and shows he does not need a cape to be heroic.
Cillian Murphy does good things in his support role as mediator between the two leaders on the boat, yet the key scenes between Gleeson and Whishaw are the quiet most impressive scenes of note holding great swathes of gravitas and dramatic tension in the still of the night; the two actors grip in the short moments they have on screen.
The scenes at sea are wonderfully shot by Anthony Dod Mantle and the sweeping score by Joque Rosta adds to the epic feel. While the scenes with the whale may not match the glory of battle in Master and Commander by Peter Weir, you cannot fault the ambition or determination of Howards's intention in doing justice to the tragic event or the influence it had on Melville's epic tome.
Impressive and expertly produced, while the film has mind bogglingly been ignored by Americans in terms of box office the film deserves to be seen and especially on the big screen.
In The Heart of the Sea is released on Digital HD on 18th April and on 3D, Blu-Ray and DVD on 2nd May from Warner Bros.