The pedigree of In The Heart of the Sea would appear fool-proof: a competent cast, with Chris Hemsworth, Benjamin Walker, Cillian Murphy, Tom Holland and Ben Whishaw; a true adventure story that had already inspired Moby-Dick, and the Oscar-winning directorial vision of Ron Howard.
Although exquisitely photographed, Sea sadly sinks under its own ponderous weight as it rehashes any number of prior sailing and shipwreck epics. More problematic for this whaling story is the evolved mores of its audience. In 21st century America, it is difficult, if not impossible, to make heroes out of men who hunt these magnificent creatures for glory and profit. Whaling may have been a noble and economically crucial profession in early American history; but to modern eyes, it’s simply barbaric. And it certainly is no longer satisfying as entertainment.
Critic’s Note: There has been a lot of media coverage in recent months about the lack of roles for women, both in front of and behind the camera. I mention that now because these two major studio films featured only a small number of roles for women; none were of narrative consequence, and one involved a bubble bath. Although I can do little to change this sorry situation, I can at least call attention to it.