Release Date: December 11, 2015
Director: Ron Howard
Writer: Charles Leavitt, Rick Jaffa, Amanda Silver, Nathaniel Philbrick (book)
Cast: Chris Hemsworth, Benjamin Walker, Cillian Murphy, Brendan Gleeson, Ben Whishaw, Michelle Fairley, Tom Holland, Paul Anderson, Frank Dillane, Joseph Mawle, Edward Ashley, Sam Keeley, Osy Ikhile, Gary Beadle, Jamie Sives, Morgan Chetcuti, Charlotte Riley, Nicholas Jones, Donald Sumpter, Richard Bremmer
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Runtime: 121 minutes
Production Company: Village Roadshow Pictures, Cott Productions, Enelma Productions, A.I.E (co-production), Roth Films, Spring Creek Productions, Imagine Entertainment, K. Jam Media (In association with), Sur-Film (Production Services), Village Roadshow Pictures, Warner Bros.
Genre: Action, Adventure, Biography
Who wouldn’t sign up to see the leading man in Thor (Chris Hemsworth) hunting a number of whales out at sea? Especially with director Ron Howard (Rush) at the helm. Then throw into the mix the legendary tale of Moby Dick. So what more could you ask for? The average movie goer probably wouldn’t be too excited, but a film enthusiast like myself was overjoyed when I found out the news. You’ve probably heard of the fictional story of the great white whale, but may not have heard the true events that influenced the classic novel. As a character in the film stresses it may be disappointing, but that doesn’t mean the story isn’t compelling. It is in every sense, and with the right expectations you’ll leave the theater satisfied.
I say right expectations because while I was initially in hyper mode when I learned about the project, I had to take a step back once the release date was delayed. That doesn’t always warrant a bad production, but it did open my eyes to the reality that my mind may not be blown. The story is what stole the show reminding you of all the dangers at sea. It’s likely forgotten that all the luxuries of modern day communication wasn’t around in the 19th century, which adds danger to the mission in the deep ocean, and provides more stakes of quality entertainment. This film is more about the characters, and the will to survive, toned down to a man’s lost story. This was apparent from the beginning which made it easier to congest from the mind of Owen Chase’s darkest days (Chris Hemsworth). If this wasn’t done properly, I would expect you to think this is an action piece. It’s not, but it still delivers enough to gain my respect.
Hemsworth slimmed down a tone for this role, and he really is a leading man. If not already known, it should be obvious that he can lead a film. It was a pleasure to see him take charge in any given situation, only wanting the best for himself and his crew. His role was an honest passionate man, which provides a good reason for why his story is being told. The dialogue between hims and Captain George Pollard (Benjamin Walker) was an interesting choice for the film. I loved the way their interactions provided a valid reason to care for their mission. They weren’t at sea for personal gain, or to hunt whales for a trophy. It was to provide for themselves, and the community around them, even if their superiors had a different agenda. The most fascinating portion of the film was the relationship between the crewmates on the ship. Each had to trust in one another, or their mission would be a horrific failure, putting every man’s life on the line.
The mission was dangerous without question. Even the smallest detail would jeopardize the entire journey. Ron Howard made a good note of this, and made sure the members in the audience knew how important each role was. His choice of shots depicting the ship added to this remarkable story. The ship was a character itself, and bled just like the characters did. One wrong step in the wrong direction, or a loose end could’ve ended them all. Then throw in the monstrous white whale (who later is known as Moby Dick) and they were all in for an adventurous ride. The design and destruction of the whale was massive, and was something you couldn’t ignore. Not only did his presence put everything in perspective, but so did the other dolphins and smaller whales. The 3D did its job at times throwing pieces of the ship in your face from the screen. It made me duck and dodge a few times, which added to the already great experience. I love how the giant whale was represented. He wasn’t playing around in the least bit, and he made it known that you’re in his territory, and hunting down his friends at sea wouldn’t be tolerated. He was a forceful creature I’d never want to cross, and a demon in the sea that will always be remembered.
Besides the great direction, the characters relationships, and the brief action with the whales, the passage of time helped hold the film together. The film showcased how time ate at the crew inside and out. Their will to survive held weight, forcing them to commit abominations to live on. It consumed them physically and mentally, and the film made sure you could tell by their appearance. This is the retelling of a man’s worst nightmare, with him being reluctant to tell it. It’s not adaptation of the novel Moby Dick, which is the truth being stretched to a degree. It may not warrant multiple viewings over time, but was a great story of a man’s dark past.