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In the Heart of the Sea

Thriller . Drama . Adventure . Action . History . Biography

In the winter of 1820, the New England whaling ship Essex was assaulted by something no one could believe: a whale of mammoth size and will, and an almost human sense of vengeance. The real-life maritime disaster would inspire Herman Melville’s Moby Dick.  But that told only half the story.  “Heart of the Sea” reveals the encounter’s harrowing aftermath, as the ship’s surviving crew is pushed to their limits and forced to do the unthinkable to stay alive.  Braving storms, starvation, panic and despair, the men will call into question their deepest beliefs, from the value of their lives to the morality of their trade, as their captain searches for direction on the open sea and his first mate still seeks to bring the great whale down.

Actors: Chris Hemsworth , Benjamin Walker , Cillian Murphy , Brendan Gleeson , Ben Whishaw , Michelle Fairley , Tom Holland , Paul Anderson , Frank Dillane , Joseph Mawle
Directors: Ron Howard
Release: 2015-12-11
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  • Marc Savlov

    Director Howard, his actors, and indeed the entire salty sweep of the film are all aided tremendously by visual-effects supervisor Jody Johnson and his team’s spectacular combination of live action and flawless, awe-inspiring CGI creations, chief among them the great, white whale.

    Austin Chronicle Full Review
  • Brian Truitt

    In the Heart of the Sea really gives Hemsworth a chance to shine. He’s not just the hammer-slinging Thor: The Aussie continues to make the most of his dramatic work — as in Howard’s 2013 Formula 1 film "Rush" — and showcases a considerable amount of gravitas.

    USA Today Full Review
  • James Berardinelli

    The biggest problem with In the Heart of the Sea is its episodic nature. Especially during the post-sinking saga, things don’t flow smoothly.

    ReelViews Full Review
  • Ignatiy Vishnevetsky

    Even though In The Heart Of The Sea’s framing device often feels like it was written by someone who’d never read a word of Melville, its visual style makes for a bold approximation of his allusive prose.

    The A.V. Club Full Review
  • Stephanie Zacharek

    The picture is sometimes wayward and unwieldy, its dialogue creaky and awkward, like an amateur’s attempt at scrimshaw.... But in a movie climate rife with superhero reboots and rehashings of childhood favorites, it’s a small marvel that In the Heart of the Sea exists at all.

    Time Full Review
  • Jeff Baker

    In the Heart of the Sea doesn't trust itself enough to be great.

    Portland Oregonian Full Review
  • Chris Nashawaty

    Howard’s film, for all of its storytelling skill, technical polish, and rousing high-seas sequences, never quite casts the spell it should. It’s too polite to give us a real feeling of life or death. Its sense of danger is watered down.

    Entertainment Weekly Full Review
  • Soren Andersen

    The whale special effects, computer-generated of course, are genuinely spectacular.

    The Seattle Times Full Review
  • Peter Travers

    Only landlubbers would resist the rousing action of man versus leviathan. Sure it's old-school. So what. Howard puts heart, soul and every computerized whale trick in the book into crafting a seafaring adventure to rock your boat.

    Rolling Stone Full Review
  • Calvin Wilson

    An oddly uninvolving adventure story.

    St. Louis Post-Dispatch Full Review
  • Roger Moore

    Howard’s In the Heart of the Sea merely unravels the yarn that inspired the great book, a good-looking film that never sinks, but never really soars either.

    Movie Nation Full Review
  • Bill Goodykoontz

    The images are impressive. But the characters and their development leave something to be desired.

    Arizona Republic Full Review
  • Tom Huddleston

    The dramatic scenes are a touch overcooked, and there are moments when it feels like a particularly high-end school play, with everyone shouting “Avast!” and “Ahoy!” like they really mean it. The action, though, is consistently impressive: When man and beast go toe-to-tail, your timbers will be truly well shivered.

    Time Out New York Full Review
  • Amy Nicholson

    Howard is great at capturing the timbre of the ship, the creaks and snaps and the whir of the hemp lines, and the sonar clicks of the whales strategizing below. All his sound and fury has a befuddling purpose. His emotional climax is about, well, disaster insurance.

    Village Voice Full Review
  • Fionnuala Halligan

    Fluid, shifting and tense, the action here easily outstrips the film’s basic set-up (man tests himself against nature, is humbled), which can feel like unconvincing filler between surges of effects work.

    Screen International Full Review
  • Helen O'Hara

    There’s so much incident crammed into this tale of misfortune that there’s never quite enough time to truly tangle with the sheets and sails of its meaning.

    The Telegraph Full Review
  • Matt Maytum

    Given the weighty themes of Moby Dick, In The Heart Of The Sea doesn't have a lot going on behind the outward action. The composite parts are in fine working order; it's the sum that's slightly lacking.

    Total Film Full Review
  • Jordan Hoffman

    Director Ron Howard does a solid job of getting the smell of salt off the page and into the picture. The first half works quite well simply as a procedural, but when the action comes we run into trouble. The well-earned seriousness is washed away as we’re broadsided by B-movie tropes.

    The Guardian Full Review
  • Peter Rainer

    If the movie accomplishes nothing else, though, I hope it inspires the curious to actually sit down and finally read “Moby-Dick.” It’s an extraordinary yarn. Really.

    Christian Science Monitor Full Review
  • Brad Wheeler

    At the heart of the problem with this period piece is an absence of a riveting scene or a memorable slice of dialogue.

    The Globe and Mail (Toronto) Full Review
  • Drew McWeeny

    Overall, it is false, both narratively and visually, in a way that just doesn't sit right with me, and it feels like a lesser effort from Howard, an itch he scratched but that hold little interest for anyone else.

    Hitfix Full Review
  • Anthony Lane

    If you want a Ron Howard movie about a man obsessed with a creature from the deep, In the Heart of the Sea, sadly, is not the place to start. Try “Splash.”

    The New Yorker Full Review
  • Matt Zoller Seitz

    And this is ultimately what damages In the Heart of the Sea more than anything else: it is so very many different things, but they all feel detached from each other, almost like a bunch of self-contained mini-movies stitched end-to-end, with the framing device serving as needle and thread. Full Review
  • Kenneth Turan

    The whale is wondrous but the drama not so much in In the Heart of the Sea.

    Los Angeles Times Full Review
  • Manohla Dargis

    As the movie lurches along by fits and starts, toggling between the little Nantucket room and the great watery world, it becomes apparent that the filmmakers have no idea how to reconcile not just two parallel stories but also the past and our contemporary age.

    The New York Times Full Review
  • Alan Zilberman

    It’s a tentative, half-realized tale that ultimately suffers from a significant identity crisis.

    Washington Post Full Review
  • Mick LaSalle

    With In the Heart of the Sea, director Ron Howard has given us a painstakingly crafted bore, a lovingly rendered snooze, and a very expensive means by which audiences can experience restless leg syndrome before being carted off to the land of happy slumber.

    San Francisco Chronicle Full Review
  • Michael Phillips

    I wish Howard's film had more of a distinct personality and drive behind it; Howard's made some supremely enjoyable films, in various keys, but this waterlogged, effects-crazed picture isn't one of them.

    Chicago Tribune Full Review
  • Rene Rodriguez

    You come away from the movie lamenting the missed opportunity and wondering what a stronger, bolder filmmaker would have done with this material.

    Miami Herald Full Review
  • Rex Reed

    There are aspects afloat reminiscent of the great 1946 sea epic "Two Years Before the Mast", but Chris Hemsworth is no Alan Ladd. He is to the majesty of a ship at sea what a clamshell is to the bottom of a canoe.

    New York Observer Full Review
  • Rodrigo Perez

    Visual daring is nice, but it means little in the end when the ultimately safe and harmless story never rocks the boat.

    The Playlist Full Review
  • Todd McCarthy

    A sort of maritime Donner Party, In the Heart of the Sea is a rugged but underwhelming true-life drama of a cursed 19th century whaling voyage.

    The Hollywood Reporter Full Review
  • Alonso Duralde

    Lovers of spectacle for spectacle’s sake will come away from the film with many discrete sequences to admire, but there’s not enough of a human element to bridge them together. In terms of its lasting power, In the Heart of the Sea roars in like a great tide, but then just as quickly dissipates.

    TheWrap Full Review
  • Allison Shoemaker

    Unfortunately, the reverence Howard and screenwriter Charles Leavitt seem to feel for the material ultimately dooms it to—if you’ll pardon the seafaring reference—float along in the doldrums, doomed to a driftless existence enlivened only by the occasional giant whale.

    Consequence of Sound Full Review
  • Steve Persall

    The movie has all the propulsion of a trolling motor, traversing long-charted dramatic waters.

    Tampa Bay Times Full Review
  • Erin Whitney

    Even when the film does try to rouse emotion, it feels like a last minute attempt to make up for lack of character development.

    ScreenCrush Full Review
  • Bilge Ebiri

    In the Heart of the Sea isn’t a bad film, necessarily. It has some genuinely effective passages in its first half, and Howard is nothing if not a dutiful, check-the-boxes kind of director. But a story like this – one of horror and madness, which helped give birth to an ornate masterpiece of obsession – needs to go a little crazy. And this director doesn’t do crazy.

    New York Magazine (Vulture) Full Review
  • Tasha Robinson

    Howard shows his viewers what happened to these sailors, but he rarely offers any sense of who they were, or what it felt like to face their situation.

    The Verge Full Review
  • Stephen Whitty

    This movie has Chris Hemsworth, in between "Avengers" movies, and a lot of computer-generated sea life. It uses a lot of fancy lures, but it never hooks you.

    New York Daily News Full Review
  • Justin Chang

    In the Heart of the Sea feels stiff and unconvincing, weirdly devoid of texture, and populated by ciphers who speak primarily in the leaden language of exposition.

    Variety Full Review
  • Lou Lumenick

    Presenting a “true” adventure about a giant whale that supposedly inspired “Moby-Dick” raises tsunami-high expectations about In the Heart of the Sea that are crushed as thoroughly as if star Chris Hemsworth had brought down his “Thor” hammer on the entire enterprise.

    New York Post Full Review
  • Ty Burr

    In the Heart of the Sea plays as if the joke was real and everyone on the production had caved in. The result, as a movie, is a joke.

    Boston Globe Full Review
  • Christopher Gray

    The narrative is helplessly adrift, a yarn that extols vague grit and determination with no discernible through line.

    Slant Magazine Full Review
  • Joe Morgenstern

    The script, by Charles Leavitt, is dead in the water, and the drama is too, despite billowing sails and pods of whales. Instead of “Jaws” it’s a turgid “Tails.”

    Wall Street Journal Full Review
  • Adam Lowes

    Despite the best efforts of the filmmakers, In the Heart of the Sea is a few knots away from being the transformative cinema experience intended.

    CineVue Full Review
  • Lawrence Toppman

    The conversion to 3-D has left the movie looking grim and dim. Almost every scene, whether indoors by candlelight or upon the open ocean, seems awkwardly dark; competent 3-D effects don’t compensate for this distraction. Equally drab are the performances, except for Gleeson and Whishaw.

    Charlotte Observer Full Review
  • Ian Nathan

    For all the special effects and half-starved A-listers, this is a sodden beast. Perhaps there’s a reason that Melville only told half the story.

    Empire Full Review
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