In the Heart of the Sea
starring Chris Hemsworth, Benjamin Walker, Cillian Murphy, Tom Holland, Jordi Mollá, Ben Whishaw and Brendan Gleeson
screenplay by Charles Leavitt
directed by Ron Howard
Based on the book In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex (2000) by Nathaniel Philbrick, In the Heart of the Sea is about the sinking of the American whale ship Essex in 1820 which was the inspiration for the famous Herman Melville novel Moby Dick (1851). The story is re-told to Melville by an elderly innkeeper, Thomas Nickerson (Brendan Gleeson), who served on the Essex as a cabin boy (Tom Holland) during its doomed whale hunt. By mid-century he is the last survivor of the small number of crew who survived their shipwreck and Melville wants his story at any price because he senses a great work of literature in the drama.
It’s interesting to watch a modern film portrayal of a whale hunt because it’s hard for me to imagine how 19th century men in rowboats could kill these large creatures with hand-launched harpoons. It’s also informative to learn about both the methods and the context of commercial whaling. It was the oil business of its day. Whale oil powered their world just as petroleum oil pumped from the ground has fueled ours.