In 1820, crewmen Owen Chase, George Pollard, and Matthew Joy (Chris Hemsworth, Benjamin Walker, Cillian Murphy) aboard the New England vessel Essex face a harrowing battle for survival when a whale of mammoth size and strength attacks with force, crippling their ship and leaving them adrift in the ocean. Pushed to their limits and facing storms, starvation, panic and despair, the survivors must resort to the unthinkable to stay alive. Their incredible tale ultimately inspires author Herman Melville (Ben Whishaw) to write “Moby Dick.”
I just want to say that I saw this film in 3D and although it had its moments, I’ll say that it wasn’t necessary in order to enjoy. Some may be familiar with the novel by Herman Melville called Moby Dick but some may not know the story that inspired it. The plot of this film consists of the retelling of this story though a conversation between one of the survivors, Tom Nickerson (Brendan Gleeson), now older (younger Tom, Tom Holland) and Herman Melville (Whishaw) while Melville was looking for some background information before he wrote Moby Dick. With that, the film pretty much consisted of Chase, Pollard, Nickerson, and the rest of the crew of a whaling ship called the Essex on its maiden voyage to collect thousands of barrels of essential whale oil. Of course being a film, something happens when the Essex comes across a whale of mammoth proportion who destroys the ship and leaves the crew adrift in the ocean. The film follows their attempt to survive their ordeal and find their way back home. One thing that I didn’t like about the film was that it started with the crew just about to leave on their voyage so we never got the time to learn about the main characters so I found myself not caring about most of them. Hemsworth here was playing a typical Hemsworth role. As Chase, he was just a prototypical cliche alpha male but I did not mind this too much since he has done this well enough here and in the past. Walker was okay as Pollard but not memorable in that I could not remember anything about him. Murphy was also okay as Joy but I have no idea what purpose he served in this film as he did next to nothing in it. The scenes I enjoyed the most were those between Whishaw’s Melville and Gleeson’s Nickerson as they were the most compelling because of each of their performances but I did also feel that the film relied a little too much on them to explain the story. Like I said, I saw the film in 3D and I found it added to the film during the scenes when they were on the Essex as it made you feel like you were on the ship by highlighting its size and scope. The effects were well done as well. They were only used for whales (I believe) and they looked real good, especially the mammoth whale whose detail was impressive. What really let me down however was the story. For a story about survival, I never got that impression here as I never got to see what they did to survive. It just seemed to me that nothing really happened after they lost the ship. Overall, there are elements of a great film in there but I just feel like it all could have been done better.