In the Heart of the Sea

Moby Dick is considered one of the great American novels. Most don’t know—I sure didn’t—that the book was based on the true events that took place in the winter of 1820 when the whaling ship Essex left the port of Nantucket, Massachusetts, and sailed around the tip of South America looking for prey. While in a South American port, they hear a tale of a mammoth whale that can be found in the Pacific, so they venture dangerously far from land and get a lot more than they bargained for when they find that said whale has a vengeance against humanity. While the book deals with the fictional tale of the whale, this movie shows the aftermath of the true-life encounter and how the surviving crew are pushed to their limits trying to survive in three whaling boats in the middle of the Pacific thousands of miles from land.

As with most Blu-rays, the picture quality is exceptional, bordering on stunning on several occasions. Unfortunately, a few underwater sequences and dark interiors suffer from some banding, although the brightly lit exterior shots are outstanding and teem with detail. Fleshtones are accurate, and close-ups are particularly revealing, but the faint of heart may be grossed out by the sun-dried skin of the shipwreck victims in the third act.

The Dolby Atmos track has its moments but is mostly underwhelming, even during the action sequences. Directional queues are adequate, but the underwater sequences don’t have the effect of placing you into the scene like top-rated Atmos tracks tend to do. On the plus side, dialogue is always intelligible, and the score presents an engrossing soundstage.

Supplements include a couple of behind-the-scenes featurettes and a very interesting 30-minute documentary about the real-life captain of the Essex who bravely went back out to sea with no better results than his first command. Rounding things out are some deleted and extended scenes, a featurette on Ron Howard, a DVD, and UV Digital Copy.

I’m generally a fan of Howard’s work; even his misses are more entertaining than the average director’s, and that’s certainly the case here. The story has its merits, but it doesn’t capture the imagination like Apollo 13. He failed to make an emotional link between the main characters and the audience, and frankly, I felt sorrier for the hunted whales than I did for the human survivors. Ultimately, this has rental written all over it given the middling Atmos track and screenplay.

Studio: Warner Bros., 2016
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
Audio Format: Dolby Atmos/TrueHD 7.1 core
Length: 122 mins.
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Director: Ron Howard
Starring: Chris Hemsworth, Benjamin Walker, Cillian Murphy

javanp's picture

Everyone else (AVS, bluray), including myself, seems to be in agreement that this is an incredible Atmos mix, if not one of, or THE, the best out there. Plentiful Atmos cues aside, this is incredibly clean and powerful mix.

Maybe you had a setting off?

David Vaughn's picture
That's certainly possible, but it doesn't explain why every other track sounds amazing. Maybe my mood wasn't right at the time or something, but my wife didn't think the track was "all that" either. I'll have to give it another spin, I guess???