IN THE HEART OF THE SEA (USA|Australia|Spain|UK|Canada/12A/122mins)
Directed by Ron Howard. Starring Chris Hemsworth, Brendan Gleeson, Ben Whishaw, Cillian Murphy, Tom Holland, Michelle Fairley.
THE PLOT: Novelist Herman Melville (Ben Whishaw) travels to Nantucket, Massachusetts to interview Tom Nickerson (Brendan Gleeson), the last survivor of the whaling ship The Essex which, to all intents and purposes, ran aground many years earlier. Melville suspects that there was more to the story than the inquiry told and, over the course of a long night and several glasses of whiskey, Nickerson finally recounts the tale he has never told anyone, the tale that would go on to inspire the classic novel ‘Moby Dick’.
THE VERDICT: There have been many cinematic tellings of Herman Melville’s ‘Moby Dick’, but Ron Howard’s latest film turns its attention to the true story that inspired the novel; the one that was only verified as true from his diary of the events, in 1980.
Brendan Gleeson plays Tom Nickerson the older, and the pain of the story he tells through the course of the film is etched across his face. Ben Whishaw brings tact and tenacity to the role of Melville, Chris Hemsworth re-teams with Rush director Ron Howard to play a character who is determined and consumed with the trappings of power and wealth. That said, Benjamin Walker as captain of The Essex, George Pollard, makes his character arrogant and obsessive, without the charm of Hemsworth’s Owen Chase. The rest of the cast is made up of Cillian Murphy, Michelle Fairley, Paul Anderson and Tom Holland as the young Tom Nickerson.
Charles Leavitt’s screenplay, based ion Nathaniel Philbrick’s book ‘In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex’ is careful in its telling of this whaling tale. The audience already knows that whaling is barbaric and cruel, so the screenplay feels no need to labour this point, other than in the brutal and graphic scene involving a whale being butchered after it was killed. In fact, it could be argued that the whale that targets and destroys The Essex is the hero of the film. Elsewhere, the film is truly a story of greed taking down those that pursued wealth, and some pretty horrific choices that stay with the survivors for life.
Director Ron Howard makes In the Heart of the Sea a survival tale and a coming of age tale all at the same time. The action is exhilarating, fast paced and a lesson in creating tension on screen, but things lose their way a little once the ship is wrecked and the crew stranded. The pacing slows as the crew struggle to survive and, with so much time given to this element of the story, the film goes from action adventure flick to something more akin to ‘The Life of Pi’ or the middle of ‘Unbroken’.
In all, however, ‘In The Heart of the Sea’ is a thrilling adventure movie for the most part, with Nickerson the Elder and Melville anchoring the story emotionally and in terms of the story. There are times when the pacing struggles, and some of the characters are drawn a little too thin, but there is plenty to enjoy in ‘In The Heart of the Sea’, just not all of it is pleasant.
Review by Brogen Hayes
SNOOPY & CHARLIE BROWN: THE PEANUTS MOVIE (USA/G/93mins)
Directed by Steve Martino. Starring Trombone Shorty, Rebecca Bloom, Anastasia Bredikhina, Francesca Angelucci Capaldi, Kristin Chenoweth, Alexander Garfin, Noah Johnston, Bill Melendez.
THE PLOT: In this big screen take on the classic Peanuts comic strip, Charlie Brown faces his worst feelings about himself as he tries to work up the courage to talk to the new girl at school. Meanwhile, Snoopy finds a typewriter, and begins writing an adventure story that finds him facing his arch nemesis in the sky.
THE VERDICT: The very first Peanuts comic was published in 1950, and ran for 50 years in print, as well as being adapted into TV specials. The comic focused on the problems faced by the insecure Charlie Brown and his young friends, as well as the adventures of his dog Snoopy. This type of story is carried through into this new big screen adventure, which stays true to the feel and style of the original comics, while bringing Charlie Brown and co. to a whole new audience.
The story of’ Snoopy & Charlie Brown: The Peanuts Movie’ is an incredibly simple one, but one with a lot of heart; Charlie Brown finds himself infatuated with the Little Red Haired Girl who is new to his school, and in working up the courage to talk to her he gets himself into some scrapes, learns to dance and, ultimately, learns some truths about himself that he didn’t expect. Snoopy has the adventure portion of the movie all sewn up as he goes off into his imagination chasing down the Red Baron and rescuing his true love Fifi. The story is in keeping with the struggles the characters went through in the comic, and feels true to the spirit of Peanuts.
Director Steve Martino treats the legacy of Charlie Brown and Peanuts with care; the film never tries to be too modern; there are no mobile phones or technology and the animation combines computer generated imagery with the feel of creator Charles Schultz’s original drawings and designs for the characters. This is where trouble arises for the film though; this is perfect for the adults in the audience who grew up with the Peanuts characters, and will appreciate the nostalgia and sweetness of the film, but it is difficult to imagine that with all the animated high energy adventure movies that kids have had in recent years that they will engage with the movie as well as the brightly coloured, high octane films they are used to.
In all, however, ‘Snoopy & Charlie Brown: The Peanuts Movie’ is a film that stays true to the comic strips that inspired it, is beautifully animated and has a lovely message, it is just a little lower in energy than the films kids have been treated to in recent years so they may struggle to stay with it, but the grown up Peanuts fans in the audience will love it.
Review by Brogen Hayes