At the risk of making an inadvertent pun that admittedly sounds very much calculated, "In the Heart of the Sea" is dead in the water. Based on the true story of the maritime tragedy that inspired Herman Melville's 1851 literary classic "Moby Dick" and was more recently documented in Nathaniel Philbrick's 2000 non-fiction book "In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex," the film somehow finds a way to suck all signs of life, personality and suspense out of its harrowing subject matter. Director Ron Howard (2013's "Rush") and screenwriter Charles Leavitt (2015's "Seventh Son") uninspiringly recreate a series of events without capturing the emotional gravity of said ordeal. Impossible to care about the grievously one-note characters or the jarringly choppy narrative, all that is left for the viewer to do is ineffectually sit and wait for the end credits to arrive.
In 1850 Nantucket, an author by the name of Herman Melville (Ben Whishaw) arrives to speak to a shipwreck survivor as research for his latest novel, "Moby Dick." As the alcoholic, down-on-his-luck Thomas Nickerson (Brendan Gleeson) begins to spin his tale, the ensuing flashbacks to thirty years earlier awkwardly place 14-year-old Thomas (Tom Holland) in a peripheral role within what should be his personal experiences. Instead, rugged farmer's son Owen Chase (Chris Hemsworth) is front and center, leaving behind his pregnant wife (Charlotte Riley) to work as first mate alongside Captain George Pollard (Benjamin Walker) on a two-and-a-half-year whaling expedition to the Pacific. A little more than a year into their voyage, thousands of miles west of South America, their ship The Essex is accosted by a giant sperm whale and subsequently ripped to shreds. What follows is a fight for survival, the men left stranded without food on small whaleboats, their hopes of rescue dwindling with each passing day. Oh, and youngest crew member Thomas happens to be there, too.
See Dustin Putman, TheFilmFile.com. for full review