STORY: Set in 1820, this is the story of a whaling ship that meets with disaster in the then-uncharted Open Ocean. Eager to fill the Essex’s hold with whale oil after an initially disappointing catch, Captain George Pollard, Jr. (Walker) and first officer Owen Chase (Hemsworth) are driven by greed to venture out into treacherous waters. It is poetic justice then, that one of the very creatures they are hunting wrecks their ship as well as the crew.
REVIEW: This film is set in a time when things like ethical concerns regarding the brutality of whaling, were non-existent. Back then concepts like species being endangered probably didn’t exist. In today’s world, whaling is banned almost globally. But back then, as depicted in the film, whaling by itself was probably more dangerous for the crews than the whales. A large sperm whale could reduce the wooden ships then in use, to matchwood. And that’s exactly what happens here, when Pollard, Chase and their fellow sailors are dumb enough to try and bite off way more blubber than they can chew. When they set out from Nantucket and head on down the Americas to a spot of ocean 200 miles off their planned course, they find themselves in a veritable whalers’ paradise. But an alpha-male bull sperm whale proceeds to teach the sailors the lesson of a lifetime.
The story does play out a little in flashback, as one of the survivors of the ordeal, Thomas (Gleeson) recounts their reckless tale. The period detailing (even things like the era’s spoken word accents) is superb and the performances pass muster, but are nothing special. The 3D certainly helps a lot, especially in the whale-hunting as well as the underwater sequences. But ironically enough, you might end up rooting for the whales instead of the humans! After all, the crew only got what they deserved. And when the sailors are left for the dead, driven almost insane and at nature’s mercy, you don’t feel any empathy for them. That said though, this is definitely a gripping tale that’s worth watching.