Heart of the Sea


In the Heart of the Sea. In 2000, Nathaniel Philbrick released his book by that name and received the National Book Award for his true story account of the sinking of the whaleship Essex, which sailed out of Nantucket in the early 1800s under the command of George Pollard and first mate Owen Chase.

The story of the Essex influenced Melville’s writing of Moby Dick. Ron Howard took Nat Philbrick’s book, wove-in a central role for Herman Melville, and this Friday theatre-goers will have the opportunity to see the result.

When the film was in process, Ron Howard and Nat Philbrick visited Mystic Seaport, spending time aboard the Charles W Morgan, sitting for lunch in the captain’s quarters, drawing upon the experience aboard the nation’s oldest merchant vessel that is a sole surviving whaler from a fleet that once numbered 2,700 ships. In appreciation, Warner Brothers generously provided the Museum with an advanced showing of the movie last night. It was spectacular.

A few minutes into the movie it became obvious why so many swoon over Chris Hemsworth. By the end of the movie, I also understood why Ron Howard cast him for the lead role. It was likewise apparent that Howard’s directing drew solid performances from the entire cast.

I read the book when it first came out so I knew the movie’s central plot, but that spoiled nothing. The film held a sense of suspense from beginning to end.

There may have been some times when the allure and draw of special effects interfered with the story, but the acting carries the movie and I look forward to another viewing soon. Another read of Nathaniel Philbrick’s book, as well.

In a world where critics abound, there will likely be many views on the merits of this film. In time, we will learn if this will become a box office success or if the December release positions the movie for the awards season. In any event, I am confident that a viewing of In the Heart of the Sea will give the movie-goer a vivid fictional dream of what it meant to be aboard a whaleship two hundred years ago and that is an experience well worth the price of admission. I suggest you go to the big screen for this one, don’t wait to see it on DVD.

by John Urban

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About John Urban

Like his protagonist, John Urban has worked as a college professor and he sails the waters of Southern New England on an old wooden sailboat that he restored. He is a regular contributor to the blog Write On The Water, and his short stories have appeared in the anthologies Seasmoke and Deadfall. The ocean was his desired destination from an early age. As a boy living a landlocked life in Western Massachusetts, nights were dedicated to reading about boats and watching Flipper and weekends were spent boating and fishing, April-to-October, on Long Island Sound. Thoughts of a career at sea ended early after a stint at the Massachusetts Maritime Academy, but the circle of life has come around some years later in the form of the fictional world of Steve Decatur. Urban lives just outside Boston and spends his summers near the waters edge of Buzzards Bay and Rhode Island Sound. A Single Deadly Truth, published on Amazon Kindle, is Urban's debut novel. As second Steve Decatur mystery, Masters of Rhode Island, is due out later this year.
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One Response to Heart of the Sea

  1. Thanks, John – putting it on the list. Love Ron Howard’s work.

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