IN THE HEART OF THE SEA is an upcoming fim based upon the historical account written by Nathaniel Philbrick and published in 2000, concerning the wreck of the Whaleship Essex in 1820. The vessel set out from Nantucket in the fall of 1820 and was attacked in the middle of the Pacific Ocean by an enraged sperm whale of a larger size than average. This incident inspired Herman Melville to write, thirty years later, the book that many call the Great American Novel, Moby-Dick. What’s amazing and upsetting about the Essex story is that it didn’t end with the whale sinking the ship. It got much more grueling and horrible from there. These events are detailed in Narrative of the Most Extraordinary and Distressing Shipwreck of the Whale-Ship Essex, the eyewitness account of the ship’s first mate, Owen Chase, who Chris Hemsworth plays in the movie. Chase’s account was one of Melville’s sources (in addition to his own experiences as a whaler in the era), but Philbrick, from the vantage point of history, had an even wider array of sources. Chase was one of eight survivors — another, cabin boy Thomas Nickerson, wrote The Loss of the Ship “Essex” nearly twenty-five years after Moby-Dick was published, and in fact it wasn’t unearthed by scholars until the twentieth century. Brendan Gleeson, one of my very favorite actors, plays an older version of Nickerson in the movie.
This is a story that fascinates me as it has so many others, and I’ve read both Philbrick’s impressive book and Owen Chase’s slender tome. The trailer looks appropriately epic and terrifying, courtesy of the images by the adventurous cinematographer Anthony Dod Mantle, who has worked repeatedly with Danny Boyle and Lars Von Trier and earned plenty of genre cred with his bold work on 2012’s DREDD. Two of the credited screenwriters on IN THE HEART OF THE SEA are Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver, who wrote two of the best genre films of 2011 and 2014 with RISE & DAWN OF THE PLANET OF THE APES. Cillian Murphy, who is excellent in everything, plays second mate Matthew Joy, and Herman Melville himself is to be played by Ben Whishaw, who won me over with CLOUD ATLAS and the rest of you with SKYFALL. This movie has promise and pedigree for days.
It puts me in the unique position of being thoroughly amped for a Ron Howard movie. Nothing against the director at all — I’ve enjoyed several of his films more than most, and the ones I haven’t didn’t offend me. It’s just that there’s never been a Ron Howard to rile me up in anticipation of its release before now. As of now, I am completely riled. I want to see this movie TOMORROW. Check out the trailer and see how you feel:
IN THE HEART OF THE SEA opens on March 15th, 2015.
— JON ABRAMS (@jonnyabomb)
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