(M) Directed by Ron Howard
Starring Chris Hemsworth, Cillian Murphy, Brendan Gleeson

by Ben McEachen

What the world didn't seem too fussed with knowing more about was the true story behind epic tome Moby Dick. But Ron Howard still set cinematic sail with the doomed 1820s voyage of whale-ship The Essex. The wash-up is a nautical yawn, as stodgy storytelling and modern intrusions dilute hope of making a splash.

Unlike author Herman Melville's famous if hard-going read about the rabid hunt for a white whale, The Essex wasn't steered by obsessed Captain Ahab. As recounted to Melville (Ben Whishaw) by surviving shipmate Thomas (Brendan Gleeson), The Essex was led by a greenhorn captain, George Pollard (wet Benjamin Wallker). Cue stereotypical issues with decision making and respect, especially as first mate Owen Chase (stoic Chris Hemsworth) is a whale whisperer.


If none of that hoists your mainsail, Howard's aimless adventure won't either. Moby Dick's heartbeat of crazed pursuit is nowhere in sight. Instead, step aboard for maritime standards (Stormy weather! Splintering masts!) in a limp tale of survival whose “dark secret” only will shock anyone troubled by logic.

As we drift in no gripping direction, perhaps the biggest blunder is the 1820s whalemen becoming spokesmen for contemporary environmental concerns. Such a forced anachronism cements the disappointing pointlessness of Howard's fishing trip.

This review was originally published by Rolling Stone. Click here to check it out.