The film is based on Nathaniel Philbrick’s In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex and tells the true story behind the famous novel Moby-Dick by Herman Melville. The film starts with Herman Melville (Ben Whishaw) paying Tom Nickerson (Brendan Gleeson) a handsome sum -basically all the money he has left- to hear him tell his real-life story of what happened on the Essex and in particular their encounter with a gigantic white whale.
What follows are flashbacks showing the very stereotypical rivalry between second in command Owen Chase (Chris Hemsworth reteaming with director Ron howard after the excellent Rush, 2013) and captain George Pollard intercut with scenes of Melville eagerly writing down Nickersons’ tales.
At first Chase and Pollard agree to disagree and are focussing on accomplishing their mission as soon as possible: filling 2000 barrels with oil ‘collected’ from harpooned whales as soon as possible, collect the money and go their separate ways. Untill a giant white whale is crossing their path and sheer survival becomes the order of the day.
The film is very well made, the 3D is not bad but not exceptional either, and the visual effects are very convincing. But that’s the least you can expect from an expensive blockbuster. It’s a good, somewhat old fashioned adventure film with rather simplistic black and white characterisations which somehow never really gives you the impression you’re watching something truly exceptional.