Grade B

You’ve heard of the saying “truth is stranger than fiction?”  In general, that’s a load of b.s.  What truth can compare with “Star Wars” or “The Lord Of The Rings?”  But in the case of “Moby Dick” and the true story from which Herman Melville based his novel on, the truth was much stranger — and horrifying — than fiction.

“In The Heart Of The Sea” tells the harrowing, true tale of the sailors of the Essex, a whaling ship from Massachusetts that was hit and sunk by a Sperm Whale.  The crew to was forced to use their small, whaling boats as lifeboats; and they crammed as much supplies as they could salvage from the sinking Essex.   Hundreds of miles from the nearest mainland, their supplies didn’t last long; and, ironically, fish was not readily available in the part of the ocean that they were in.  Thirst and hunger would turn the survivors to the only food source available: each other.

One of my memorable, movie moments is the scene when the crew of the Essex hunts its first whale.  Chris Hemsworth, playing the First Mate, harpoons the giant creature and takes Hemsworth and his men on a “Nantucket sleigh ride.”  The whale swims deep into the sea, desperate to escape the men who are trying to kill it.  Running out of oxygen, wounded from the harpoon, and tired from the struggle, the whale surfaces and Hemsworth makes the killing blow.  The whale spouts up blood and soon dies.  The men rejoice at their first kill…but Hemsworth isn’t so pleased with having to kill this majestic creature.  It’s his job, yes, and he needs the money to take care of his family (a wife and baby on the way); but he knows what he does isn’t completely justified.

My most memorable, movie moment of “In The Heart Of The Sea” is the scene when Hemsworth’s whaling boat has its first casualty: a sailor who has died from exposure, starvation, and thirst.  The other survivors are about to throw the body into the ocean; but Hemsworth has other ideas.  He tells his men that “No right-minded sailor discards what might yet save him.”

At first the sailors only eat the ones who have died.  But when the bodies have been consumed and the survivors were still out in the ocean, they begin to draw lots to decide who would be killed so that the others may live.  “ITHOTS” doesn’t delve too deeply into the cannibalism parts of the movie, rather it concentrates on the relationships of the sailors among themselves and their general fight for survival; and in the capable hands of director Ron Howard, it does that very well.

One bit of fact about the true story of the men of the Essex that I don’t recall was put into the movie: after the ship was sunk, the captain wanted to head for some islands that he knew they could get to before their provisions ran out; but his men scared him off with tales of cannibals in those islands.

— M