(Martin Sheen, Charles Furness, Jonas Armstrong, Adam Rayner, et al / DVD / NR / 2015 / BBC America)
Overview: Golden Globe Award-Winner Martin Sheen ('The Amazing Spider-Man,' 'West Wing)'stars in the incredible true story that inspired Herman Melville's celebrated novel Moby Dick.
DVD Verdict: 'The Whale' is the story of a ship that sinks after it is attacked by a whale – supposedly acting in revenge; it is the true story that inspired the writing of Moby Dick. Indeed, it was actually a BBC production that went out around the Christmas period in 2013. I didn't manage to see it then, but I am so glad that I have been sent it now for review, that's for sure.
With 'The Whale' there is certainly the sense of a drama where we have a solid meat and potatoes historical epic but it knows it is this. As a result we get a product that is so focused on being what it says on the tin that it really doesn't do much else. It delivers the basic elements of the story in a practical sense but does so without too much flair. But that's OK, for you don't need "flair" when it comes to a Martin Sheen performance, don't you agree?
Those needing a wee bit of a history nudge, on November 20th, 1820, an enormous 85-foot sperm whale rammed and sank Nantucket whale ship The Essex and set its crew adrift in the Pacific Ocean more than a thousand miles from land. Facing starvation, thirst, and exposure to the elements, the young crew are forced to take extreme measures in order to survive.
There are some visual devices (such as the blood on the water) but generally it is a surprisingly straight telling and I admit that I found myself wanting a tad bit more bang for me buck, I guess. Odd the film seems to take longer at the start than at the end – the life boat period goes by too quickly, with only a short amount of time in the boat. Likewise the whale of the title is limited in its time on screen.
In closing, 'The Whale' is definitely worth a look if you are in an undemanding mood, but it is workmanlike fare without too much angst or substance outside of all the material you already know will be in there. But that's what brought you to watch this film for, in the first place so just sit back, kick back, and let is wash over you! This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.