Michael, the sailer, really wanted to see this movie, and I, the Chris Hemsworth groupie, really wanted to see Chris Hemsworth – in 3D yet – so off we went to the members-only screening at the Jacob Burns Film Center.
Directed by Ron Howard and based on Nathaniel Philbrick’s acclaimed 2000 nonfiction book, In the Heart of the Sea, about the sinking of the American whaling ship Essex in 1820 that inspired Herman Melville’s Moby Dick, it’s an adventure thriller about – you guessed it – a man and a whale. Well, several men and one really large whale.
Told mostly in flashbacks by one of the Essex’s survivors (played by the always-watchable Brendan Gleeson), the story follows the crew aboard the Essex, which, after leaving port in Nantucket, is attacked by a mammoth size bull sperm whale. Adrift at sea on a crippled ship, the crewmen, led by Chris Hemsworth’s first mate who’s at odds with the patrician captain, are pushed to their limits, facing storms, starvation, panic, and despair.
That’s the short version. The long version involves much crashing of waves, breakage of ship parts and closeups of the men’s faces as they cope with sunstroke, delirium and hunger – not unlike last year’s survival-at-sea plot in “Unbroken.” The spoiler here is that there’s cannibalism. Hey, when you’re really hungry and your crewman dies, what else are you gonna do, right?
Thankfully, this is a Ron Howard movie, so our star and my heartthrob, Chris Hemsworth, survives, goes home to his wife and young daughter and lives happily ever after. Essentially, Hemsworth plays Thor with a New England accent. He did have to lose 30 pounds and said the 500-calorie-a-day diet was a killer, but his acting is negligible. He’s eye candy and that was enough for me in an otherwise snooze of a film that felt stiff, its dialogue wooden and predictable. For Michael, on the other hand, the film was two hours at sea and there was nowhere else he’d rather be.