*/**** Image A- Sound A+ Extras B+
starring Chris Hemsworth, Benjamin Walker, Cillian Murphy, Brendan Gleeson
screenplay by Charles Leavitt, based on the book In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex by Nathaniel Philbrick
directed by Ron Howard
by Bill Chambers In the Heart of the Sea is Ron Howard's water movie, just like Backdraft is his fire movie, Far and Away is his earth movie, and Apollo 13 is his air movie. It's also his first fish movie since Splash, suggesting that Howard is retracing his steps in a career reboot that began with Rush, his first car movie since his directorial debut, Grand Theft Auto. But one waits for history to repeat itself with some sign of accrued wisdom beyond obvious markers like technical proficiency. In fact, in its show-offiness and ersatz emotionalism, In the Heart of the Sea seems the less mature film next to Splash, which has a formal self-control and hints of real pathos despite a fantastical premise that sees a landlubber falling in love with a woman who's secretly a mermaid. (It's the first film to seize on Tom Hanks's Jimmy Stewart quality, as well as the rare one to tap into his anger.) There's hardly a genuine moment in In the Heart of the Sea, and a framing device only exacerbates the problem by adding another layer of dramatization to something that already plays like a big-budget History Channel re-enactment.