The vintage grotesquerie of the regular old whaling process turns out to be more disturbing than the dark adventures that are In the Heart of the Sea's reason for being.
Warner Bros. would have been better off sticking with the film's original March release date and selling it as a horror movie.
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."
If a silent whale is your most magnetic screen presence, he should probably appear for more than a few minutes.
There's a hollow at the heart of things, a strange decency and politeness for a film that strives to depict, in epic form, man's dark and visceral struggle with the world and himself.
If the movie accomplishes nothing else, though, I hope it inspires the curious to actually sit down and finally read Moby-Dick.
Most of the second half is spent drifting with them on lifeboats. In these interminable minutes, we don't get anything resembling an understanding of how they survived (or didn't) either mentally or physically.
A few scenes in In the Heart of the Sea hint at how effective the film might have been if told purely as a gripping story of man versus nature.
The meat-and-potatoes Howard is uncomfortable in the realm of the spirit, or the metaphysical. He can film objects, and he can film people, but he can't quite film emptiness. The cosmic vastness of the sea eludes him.