I shall be diving into In the Heart of the Sea, testing its waters and exploring its depths to fathom if it’s buoyant cinema or just washed up. So read on only if you’ve already seen In the Heart of the Sea, or don’t plan to.
Since it was discovered whale oil could light our cities in ways never achieved before, it created global demand. It has pushed man to venture further and further into the deep blue unknown. We know not its depths. Monsters… Are they real?
This intro explains how Owen winds up battling a giant sperm whale. It does not explain why we should care.
0:03:51 Melville offers this man, Tom Nickerson (Brendan Gleeson), the cash equivalent of 3 months’ lodging for one night of conversation about the Essex (the whaling ship, not England’s version of New Jersey).
[N.B. The real Tom Nickerson really did start a boarding house after he retired from his eventual position of merchant vessel captain.]
0:07:08 It takes the film this long for the last surviving member of the Essex to agree to talk to Melville. I don’t see why they must insist on making Nickerson’s reticence my problem – and when I say I don’t see why, I mean I don’t want to see it on the screen.
Go get your captaincy!
Peggy Chase to her husband Owen (the always-salty Chris Hemsworth)
The pregnant missus (Charlotte Riley) says this as though she doesn’t know what a ‘jinx’ is.
0:10:16 Mr Mason and his partner, Benjamin Fuller, inform Owen Chase that he won’t get the captaincy he coveted, but will instead be First Mate. As a Brit, being someone’s ‘first mate’ is actually quite nice.
0:10:48 We learn George Pollard Jr. will captain the Essex because his father is a major investor in the boat. It would appear George’s ship has come in.
0:13:36 Peggy and Owen argue because Owen will be at sea for perhaps two years, and not see his baby born. I posit this is why Owen wants to be at sea for two years.
I’ll come back as quickly as a summer’s night, I swear it.
Owen to Peggy
WTF!? What does this even mean? (Besides, I can think of many things that come quicker than a summer’s night…)
0:16:58 Young Thomas Nickerson (Tom Holland) learns that sailors wear ‘whale pins’ for thrusting ‘a killing lance into the largest beast that’ll breathe on this earth’. If people had to kill for their jewellery, animals would be safer and Antwerp would be more brutal.
Owen: Well, well! You being on board means only one thing…
Matthew Joy: Yep, at least there’s one person on this ship knows the truth about Owen Chase.
Owen meets his old acquaintance (Matthew Joy is played by the frothy Cillian Murphy, who appeared along beside Brendan Gleeson/(old) Tom Nickerson in 28 Days Later). Matthew is an alcoholic and Owen is a hothead, but at least Matthew isn’t drinking any more.
0:17:54 On deck, First Mate Owen Chase meets Captain George Pollard (Benjamin Walker) for the first time. I love how catty they are towards each other almost as much as I love the subtlety of their digs.
Captain George Pollard: ‘Chase’… That’s an off-island name, isn’t it? [Translation: You weren’t born and bred on Nantucket Island, so you’re not an important man like me.]
Owen Chase: Yes, it is. Very shortly we will be off-island for some time and I’ll be very much at home. [The sea isn’t as prejudiced as your haughty arse.]
Pollard: I must say, I was surprised. Normally, a captain gets to choose his First Mate.
Owen: An experienced captain, yes. [The only kind of wet you’ve been is behind the ears.] Course you can understand from the owners’ point of view, they want to feel their investment’s in the hands of men. [And not a little toddler such as yourself.]
[N.B. In reality, Pollard and Chase had sailed together once before, on a successful voyage, and there is no record of previous animosity between the two men. It is true, however, that tensions mounted on the Essex after being at sea for months with no whales to speak of.]
0:23:17 A sailor (Paul Anderson as Caleb Chappel) carves a bare-chested woman onto a whale bone.
Sailor: I thought you were married, anyway.
Chappel: I am, and there she is [tapping the sex aid with his knife]. Well, her nose anyway.
Because her other part is the hollowed out bit where a lad’s meant to dip his wick, most likely. I’d wager he carved this from a sperm whale.
Aye aye, landsman.
[N.B. ‘Henry’ Coffin’s real name was Owen Coffin, but changed for the film to avoid confusion with Owen Chase. As in the film, Coffin was the captain’s 17-year-old cousin.]
0:28:52 The captain and Owen get into an argument about sailing towards a storm. The captain wants to sail directly into a storm, while Owen is against it. The size of your balls don’t matter in a pissing contest.
0:30:58 The captain makes more bad decisions than a virgin teen in his first orgy / a diabetic in a doughnut shop / a drunk youth on Facebook.
[N.B. This scene is historically accurate. Two days after Essex left port, a squall hit her and knocked her on her side, nearly sinking her. She lost a sail, and had one whaleboat damaged and two destroyed. Captain Pollard was forced to continue without replacing the two boats or repairing the damage.]
0:34:12 Captain Pollard blames his first mate for his own bad decisions, as though they’re married.
0:35:48 We take another break from the action to return to the framing device of two men telling the story, which I find a colossal waste of time. Yes, I understand the film was based on a book, but who reads any more?
Old Nickerson: And before long, we heard that call that all whale men pray for: Blows!
It’s not just whalers who pray for that. Many other men like to hear that, as well.
[N.B. ‘Blows’ means there are whales spotted blowing water through their blow holes. This is good news for it means whales have been spotted and the hunt can begin.]
[N.B. Nantucket sleigh-ride is when the harpooned whale pulls the whale boat behind it as it tries to escape.]
My, but the filming is impressive.
[N.B. ‘Chimney’s afire’ is the cry that rises when the blood of a whale mixes with water blown out of the spout, proving the whale is on its last fins.]
0:43:26 That evening, the men fight off the sharks that take bites out of the flesh while the men clean it and the lads scoop out the invaluable oil. Nickerson is made to descend inside the belly of the whale carcass to get the last few drops. They should call him ‘Jonah’.
[N.B. The smelly oil young Thomas Nickerson is forced to retrieve is ‘spermaceti oil’, which is far more valuable than the oil that comes from boiling down the blubber. Spermaceti oil was used to make candles and also lubricate watches and other fine machinery. It is also what gives the sperm whale its name.]
Is ‘Atacames’ Spanish for ‘Middle of Nowhere’?
0:48:58 At an outpost in the village, Pollard, Chase and Joy talk to a Spanish captain (Jordi Mollà) who lost his ship and six men to an albino whale, and he doesn’t mean in a poker hand.
0:53:26 A whale overturns one of the whale boat with his tale. He’s a large bull. Or at least he’s full of it.
0:53:36 & 42
0:56:08 The white whale begins attacking the massive whaling ship. #whaleballs
0:59:02 Moby destroys the Essex by getting wrapped up in her ropes and then diving. There are strings attached.
1:01:28 The captain orders everyone to abandon ship. Chase is down with it, but he won’t go down with it.
[N.B. In real life, as in the film, there were three boats of survivors. In Owen Chase’s boat, there were 4 other sailors, including Thomas Nickerson. On Captain Pollard’s boat, there were 8 other people, including Matthew Joy and Owen Coffin (‘Henry’ in the film). On Obed Hendricks’ boat there were a total of 3 crew members. Hendricks’ boat eventually disappeared, and the suspected remains of the sailors were later found on Ducie Island.]
1:11:18 Chase sees the white whale has been following them. Some whales simply don’t know when to quit.
I’m not a great writer. I’m not Hawthorne. But from my first hearing of it, this tale has haunted me. It consumes me. I fear if I do not write it, I shall never write again.
Herman Melville to Thomas Nickerson
Moby-Dick is 700 pages…Melville may not be great, but at least he’s long winded.
[N.B. As regards Melville’s appreciation of Hawthorne, the dedication of Moby-Dick reads, “In token of my admiration for his genius, this book is inscribed to Nathaniel Hawthorne”.]
[N.B. Melville was inspired to write Moby-Dick after whaling a little himself, but also after hearing of two major events. The first was the sinking of the Essex, as illustrated by this film, and the second was the killing, in the late 1830s, of Mocha Dick: a vicious albino whale with 20 harpoons in its back that premeditated attacks on ships.]
34 Days stranded
1:16:52 Just when they spot land and think they’re saved, the white whale returns to destroy all the boats. This is really a Dick move.
1:18:08 The silver lining is that, if Joy felt dirty, at least he was able to wash up on shore.
1:18:28 Awash on the island, Chase has lost his wife’s good luck charm. For all the luck it’s brought, it’s probably just as well.
1:19:24 On a piece of rock they generously refer to as an island [N.B. it is, in fact, Henderson Island], the survivors eat raw seagull eggs and raw fish caught in tidal pools. They pinched this recipe from Hugh Glass in The Revenant.
Captain Pollard [to Chase]: You were born to do this job, I was just born into it.
How captains apologise.
1:24:32 The sailors decide waiting is a fool’s game, so they cobble their boats back together and head out to sea. Matthew Joy (along with William Wright, Seth Weeks, and Thomas Chappel) decide to stay on the island because it’s more fun to die on land than in a tiny rowboat.
Owen [to Matthew]: I’ll send a boat for you the minute we get back. We’ll play cards in Nantucket.
How friends lie.
[N.B. The real Matthew Joy left the island with the other boats. He’d been in charge of the third boat, but by this time he was so ill that he voyaged on Pollard’s boat, leaving Hendricks to pilot the third one.]
1:24:48 Joy had kept a bottle of rum with him since the ship sank, though he has not drunk from it. Throughout the film, Ron Howard makes much of this sailor’s decision to stay sober.
Owen [gesturing to the bottle]: You want be to open that for you?
Matthew: Uh…I think I’ll manage if it comes to that.
I don’t know… There are worse ways to go. #deaddrunk
[FWIW, this is the point where the film should’ve ended.]
48 Days Stranded
1:26:24 Owen Chase wakes up on his skiff to see Pollard’s boat has floated away. They used to be close but they drifted apart.
No right-minded sailor discards what might yet save him.
This is the politically correct way to introduce the subject of cannibalism. The non-politically correct way is to say, “I’m not racist, I like dark meat as well as white.”
[N.B. This scene is historically accurate. Of the five people on Chase’s boat, one died and was buried at sea, then the second to die was eaten. The boat was rescued after this.]
1:28:48 Old man Nickerson gives Melville the recipe for eating people. As for me, I’m afraid I’m not as shocked as I’m meant to be. The entire last quarter of the film is dedicated to the horror of what they had to do to survive, but I prefer the story of the whale. All this cannibalism talk just leaves a bad taste in my mouth.
1:29:51 The wife (Michelle Fairley as Mrs. Nickerson) forgives her husband for eating people as a boy. I think she’s hoping he’ll do the same to her later.
1:32:28 On Captain Pollard’s skiff, the men draw straws to see who will become dinner for the rest. Pollard draws the short straw, so he will be the one to feed the others.
1:33:01 Henry Coffin is meant to kill his cousin, but instead does this…
Coffin is just dying to be eaten.
[N.B. The actual story is that, as men died on Pollard’s boat, their bodies were eaten to sustain the survivors. When only 4 remained, the men drew lots to determine who would die for the others, and Owen Coffin (Pollard’s 17-year-old cousin, whom he had promised to look after) drew the black spot. Apparently, Pollard offered to intervene, but Coffin refused. Another drawing was done to determine that Charles Ramsdell would be the executioner. Roughly 10 days later, another crewman died of hunger and was eaten, leaving only Pollard and Ramsdell on the craft.]
1:34:01 Captain Pollard bumps into Owen Chase in the middle of the ocean. Literally.
1:34:28 Suddenly, both teams understand what happened to the third boat.
1:36:42 Chase looks the whale in the eye and understands they have a lot in common. It might be their ego. They let each other go.
1:37:20 Captain Pollard drifts away once more, to be discovered by a sailing ship. In his boat are all the bones he had to pick with his crew.
[N.B. The scene in the film, where a dazed Pollard and Ramsdell are rescued with bones strewn about the bottom of their boat, is fairly accurate. Pollard and Ramsdell survived by gnawing on Coffin and Ray’s bones, and had eaten a total of 6 men during their 93 days after the sinking of the Essex. At the time they were picked up off of the coast of South America, both men were so completely dissociative they did not even notice the ship ‘Dauphin’ alongside them and became terrified when they saw their rescuers.]
1:40:24 Three days later, on February 18th, 1821, Chase’s boat, with Nickerson and Richard Peterson (Osy Ikhile) drift into the coastal waters of Más a Tierra island (also known as Robinson Crusoe’s island), Chile. Three months later, they arrived back in Nantucket. After this amount of time, I suspect their families care as little for them as we do.
[N.B. The film has shuffled the dates somewhat. Owen Chase’s boat, containing Thomas Nickerson and Benjamin Lawrence (not Richard Peterson) was rescued on February 18, five days before Pollard.]
1:42:08 Chase hugs his wife and meets his daughter, though I suspect he’s asking himself how she’d taste in a barbecue sauce.
1:45:08 The ship owners and Captain Pollard promise Owen his captaincy (yes, again), wealth and reputation if he lies by saying the Essex ran aground and the dead sailors were drowned, not eaten. Frankly, I’m surprised the film is still insisting on not finishing. Any self respecting movie would have taken the hint and ended hours ago.
1:48:32 At the inquiry, Pollard decides to tell the truth and not whitewash the story, as everyone has been encouraging him to do. I take it from the music I’m to be impressed by this gesture. I’m more impressed by how much the characters are still invested in this story. The care so much more than I, that I’m made to feel quite uncomfortable.
[N.B. George Pollard Jr. did discuss his trials at sea at least twice, once with fellow captains over a dinner, and a second time with a missionary called George Bennet.]
1:49:06 Pollard goes off to find the white whale and runs his ship aground off of Hawaii. Sounds like he was going back for seconds.
[N.B. The real Pollard did not go out searching for the white whale. He did, however, return to sea to captain the whaleship Two Brothers. After it was wrecked on the French Frigate Shoals during a storm off the coast of Hawaii on his first voyage, he joined a merchant vessel which was in turn also wrecked off the Sandwich Islands (Hawaiian Islands) shortly thereafter. Considered a “Jonah” (unlucky), he was forced to retire and became Nantucket’s night watchman. Every November 20, he would lock himself in his room and fast in memory of the men of Essex.]
1:49:14 Owen Chase sent a boat back to the rock where Matthew Joy stayed. There is no more Joy on the island, but the other three men were still alive and, no doubt, full of Joy.
[N.B. In reality, Matthew Joy did not stay on Henderson Island. He first captained the third whale boat, but when his health worsened he moved to Captain Pollard’s boat and died two weeks after. The three men who chose to stay on the island where rescued, however, a year after the Essex sank, although Chase did not ‘send’ the boat to fetch them.]
1:49:36 Chase then moved to New Bedford, where he became the captain of a merchant vessel. This is logical, as Chris Hemsworth really does deliver the goods.
[N.B. The real Owen Chase returned to Nantucket where he wrote an account of the disaster, the Narrative of the Most Extraordinary and Distressing Shipwreck of the Whale-Ship Essex, which Herman Melville used as an inspiration for his Moby-Dick. Chase did eventually become the captain of a whaler and remained at sea for 19 years, only returning home for short periods every two or three years, each time fathering a child. Memories of the harrowing ordeal on the Essex haunted Chase, and he suffered terrible headaches and nightmares. Later in his life, he began hiding food in the attic of his Nantucket house on Orange Street and was eventually institutionalized.]
1:52:02 As Melville leaves, Nickerson said he heard that in Pennsylvania, they found oil in the ground. He says this with a sense of wonder, so we’re to understand that whale oil won’t be necessary to use for fuel anymore. Fossil fuels are easier, as the dinosaurs are already dead.
- WTF!?’s: Only 2 Whale The Fails
- When to Follow: A good movie to build the evening around with the family (teens or older), especially before going on a cruise…or eating dinner.
- Where’s This Found: The part about whaling was filmed wonderfully, but about midway through the film things got terrifically boring when they reached the part no one cared about. What’s more, the constant cuts to the narrator are pointless interruptions and distracting. Out of a possible 10, I have 6 F’s to give
- What To Feedback: Given, Chris Hemsworth is one hot piece of meat, but he hasn’t always chosen his roles wisely.
N.B. I used these very informative sites as a research tool for this review:
- The Essex on wikipedia
- Owen Chase on wikipedia
- George Pollard Jr. on wikipedia
- IMDb In the Heart of the Sea trivia page
Left Over WTF (Way Too Funny) Photos
Prints suitable for reposting!
WTF!? do you meme?
What to Follow Up