“In the Heart of the Sea” is another epic, excellent Ron Howard film

Screen Shot 2015-12-16 at 4.44.47 PMBased on the book of the same name from 2000, “In the Heart of the Sea” invites us to go on the hunt for whales and their precious oil in the 1820s. Long before 2000, Herman Melville wrote the fictional account of this story in 1851, Moby Dick, which went on to become a literary classic.

In the film, Chris Hemsworth plays Owen Chase, a man who wasn’t born in a sailor’s family, but who knows how to command a ship and capture whales better than most. He dreams of becoming a captain. This dream, however, is put down once the company assigns George Pollard (Benjamin Walker) as the captain of the Essex whaling ship. This is the ship that a giant whale will eventually sink.

The film’s greatest quality is its agility. In two hours, Ron Howard manages to tell a tale of epic proportions. The result is a dynamic film that is always sailing ahead and keeping the audience on its feet. Howard rejects the notion that an epic must go over two and a half hours. In fact, adding another 30 minutes to “In the Heart of the Sea” would most likely make it go under water.

Hemsworth delivers one of his best performances as Owen: a smart and gritty man who isn’t afraid of letting his emotions show. When hope vanishes, Hemsworth gives us the expression of a soldier who lost a battle he never expected to lose. We still remember, however, his words to his wife at the beginning of the film: “I’ll come back.”

“In the Heart of the Sea” is a movie where the image accomplishes much more than the dialogue. Actors rely more on expressions and big plot points come in action form, rather than in words, moving the story along quickly and efficiently. It is a simple plot, but well-directed by Howard.

Aesthetically, the close ups of the ship while the sails are going up are beautiful and show Howard’s incredible attention to detail even at moments when most directors could have gone for extreme wide shots. These details help us feel inside that ship along with the crew.

When words do appear, they usually come from the survivor who is telling a young Herman Melville the story for his next novel. These scenes are a nice tribute to Melville, but they sometimes break the action at places where we could have seen more. At one instance, our survivor prepares to take oil from inside of the whale, but the movie cuts away too quickly. There is the immediate scene where a important and interesting scene was lost.

Howard delivers here another great film in his career. “In the Heart of the Sea” balances an interesting, despite simple, story with great action scenes and a good performance by its protagonist. Those are all important elements in the map that points to good movies.