Had to drag myself along to see this one. Having seen the trailer enough times to cause substantial irritation, the subject matter itself (whaling - in this case to obtain their oil), I find far from engrossing - in fact rather repugnant. Here I automatically sided with the great white whales - and one whale in particular which kept 'stalking' the whalers (well, wouldn't you be miffed if you had to go around with a harpoon stuck in your back?) - rather than identifying with the crew with whom one was, presumably, meant to sympathise. But even aside from that I found that, despite the spectacular effects (there seems to be absolutely no limit now on the images that can be created), and despite several sequences of high drama (all set, invariably, to busy orchestral chugga-chuggas to hold ones interest), it all felt curiously functional and only distantly-involving.
Ron Howard's film, 'based' on a true story (as every second film these days seems to be), is framed and interrupted by ageing old salt, Brendan Gleason, recounting to Hermann Melville (Ben Whishaw - yes, he again!) his experiences 30 years previously in 1820 as cabin boy and general dogsbody on a whaling ship at the age of 14 (Tom Holland, looking at times startlingly like the young Jamie Bell in 'Billy Elliott', such that I half-expected a demonstration of twinkle-toed, terpsichoreal skills). It hardly needs saying that Melville uses information in the account to furnish his 'Moby Dick'.
Among the ship's crew the most recognisable name to me was Cillian Murphy.
There's plenty of action - on ship, on small boats and in the sea itself. The crew's motivation changes halfway through the film from whale-hunting just to their plain survival, the whale having scuppered their main means of 'transport'. Many in the audience will recognise in the men's fate considerable echoes of Coleridge's epic poem 'The Rime of the Ancient Mariner'.
Being a heavily male-dominated film there are no women's roles of real substance, and the couple that there are only appear on shore prior to the sailing and briefly at the end.
I didn't find this a particularly satisfying film. If it had been a subject I could have warmed to my verdict might have been different, but apart from some truly remarkable visuals (we expect nothing less these days - and I saw it in 2D while I believe there is also a 3D version at certain venues), it's not a film I can honestly describe as being one that I 'enjoyed'..........................4.
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