It’s a pity that there aren’t more horror movies set at sea, because there are few situations more dire than being stranded hundreds or even thousands of miles away from dry land, surrounded by undrinkable water. If that water also happens to contain an 85 foot long sperm whale capable of devastating destruction, things can go south very quickly.
This was the lesson learned by Captain George Pollard and the crew of the nineteenth century whaling ship Essex, which desperately pursued a sperm whale until the sperm whale started attacking back and damaged the ship badly enough to leave the whole crew stranded at sea. The true story was one of the inspirations behind Herman Melville’s famous novel Moby Dick, and director Ron Howard recently reteamed with his Rush star Chris Hemsworth to bring the story of whale vs. ship to life in salty adventure tale In the Heart of the Sea.
As with the first trailer, the new international teaser for In the Heart of the Sea emphasizes the battle between Pollard’s crew and the whale rather than the long days that came afterwards. Described in voiceover as “the story of men and a demon,” it seems as though In the Heart of the Sea is being pitched as a true story version of Moby Dick rather than a period drama version of Castaway.
Whether or not this is actually reflective of the portioning of the film is unclear, especially since Howard and screenwriter Charles Leavitt may have taken liberties with history, but the whale attack is arguably the least interesting aspect of the Essex’s story, even if it is the most marketable. Where the story gets really tragic (and also very gruesome) is the days following the conflict between the whale and the Essex, when the crew were left lost at sea with seemingly no hope of ever being rescued.
Hemsworth plays Owen Chase, first mate of the Essex, while Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter star Benjamin Walker plays Pollard. The film’s cast also includes Cillian Murphy, Ben Whishaw, Tom Holland, Frank Dillane and Osy Ikhile. Leavitt’s previous screenplays include K-PAX and Blood Diamond, and Dawn of the Planet of the Apes writing team Amanda Silver and Rick Jaffa also have story writing credits.
Early spring is a sparse time for movie releases and In the Heart of the Sea definitely looks worth seeing in theaters, if only for a life size view of that whale tail.
In the Heart of the Sea is out on March 13, 2015.