In the Heart of the Sea

‘In the Heart of the Sea’ proves the saying ‘there is nothing more terrifying than being trapped’.  This doesn’t have to mean enclosed spaces as this film shows.  Set in the vast expanse of the sea, its ship-faring protagonists face insurmountable obstacles.  Director Ron Howard is an old-hand at these epic films with his visual flair evident as his characters attempt to break free of physical and emotional shackles.


Travelling in their whaling ship in 1820 the crew including Captain Pollard (Benjamin Walker) and first officer Owen (Chris Hemsworth) look for new adventures.  Their quest turns deadly when their ship is destroyed by a huge whale.  Shipwrecked at sea and miles from land, their plight turns desperate.  Soon they are forced to turn to other forms of survival as starvation and thirst soon set in.


Although Ron Howard has had his share of successes, he has had his share of clunkers too.  ‘In the Heart of the Sea’ falls somewhere in between.  Whilst scenes featuring the giant whale attacking the ship are spectacularly realised, plus the general ship sailing sequences, the film stumbles with its characters.  They are so thinly drawn and devoid of much personality it’s difficult joining in their plight.  The actors try their best to infuse some depth although they are increasingly upstaged by the CGI and somewhat mediocre script.


The scenes of the whale versus its hunters are often tense.  Despite occasionally having a ‘Jaws’-like feel in terms of humongous sea creature battling humans, Howard manages to conjure the majesty of the beast and the dangers it and the ocean offer.  These elements lift an otherwise forgettable film dwelling on the usual survival clichés adding nothing new.  Ron Howard has done better but without a strong screenplay to support his visual story-telling style, he is almost left at the sea in which his characters reside.


‘In the Heart of the Sea’ isn’t quite a soggy saga but isn’t what it should have been.  Dazzling with its oceanic sequences, it produces little else to engage.  It is a classic case of style over substance with the whale having more personality than the humans pursuing it.


Rating out of 10:  6


The end of the previous Rocky film ‘Rocky Balboa’ saw the title hero wave goodbye for the final time.  But this is Hollywood – franchises never die.  Instead they are re-born in semi-sequels such as ‘Creed’.  Whilst Rocky himself, Sylvester Stallone, remains the heart of the series, he passes the torch to someone else.  Obviously a younger person in order to develop more sequels although ‘Creed’ manages to stand on its own to be as engaging as Rocky’s previous cinematic bouts.


Adonis Creed (Michael B Jordan) has grown up not knowing his father Apollo.  A former world heavy-weight boxing champion, Apollo gained fame for his ringside fights with Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone).  Wanting to take over the mantle of his father, Creed contacts Rocky to help him train.  Turning into a lean fighting machine, Creed develops his own ‘eye of the tiger’ to ready himself for a boxing battle.


‘Creed’ defies expectations to become a worthy addition to the Rocky series.  Whilst some boxing clichés are present, ‘Creed’ isn’t a film about the sport. It’s about legacies and finding your own identity.  Although Rocky has carved his own niche in the field, he has to deal with the legacy left behind.  Likewise Adonis struggles to come out from his famous father’s shadow to mark his own place.  It’s a simple premise but in director Ryan Coogler’s hands it is freshly told and consistently engaging.


Stallone delivers a fine performance as his iconic character.  Jordan matches his abilities well with his determined character.  ‘Creed’ rests squarely on their shoulders and they meet the challenge with aplomb.  The boxing sequences are suitably energetic and excitingly staged with authenticity previous entries lacked.  This extends to the scenes of Rocky’s home-town with the gritty flavour echoing what made the series initially popular.


One can easily see a slew of ‘Creed’ sequels after this.  Certainly not a bad thing if ‘Creed’s’ high quality is matched.  It also proves there is life left in this enduring series sure to please loyal fans who have traded blows with Rocky over several decades.


Rating out of 10:  7