Falkenstein’s monster film review: Creed & In the heart of the Sea

Looking for a Saturday Night movie that isn’t Star Wars? Filmophile Glen Falkenstein has two reviewed two old tales re-imagined to great effect.


The best Rocky film since the Original, Creed has brought the series back to form.

Sylvester Stallone wisely takes a backseat, taking the mentor role previously occupied by Mickey (Burgess Meredith) and Apollo Creed (Carl Weathers) in previous entries, with Stallone’s self-styled boxing legend, Rocky Balboa, training Apollo’s son Adonis (Michael B. Jordan) to take on the world.

Donny’s story will be readily familiar to fans of the Rocky saga – a talented yet unappreciated fighter trying to prove his worth. While those who got past Rocky II will register with Adonis’ attempts to break out of his idealised lifestyle, as Rocky did years before, realising his dream of being the best.

Despite the nostalgic references and flashbacks are made to the earlier films, Creed stands tall on its own.

This is not a remake or reboot in any sense, it’s just a sequel which fits supremely well into the Rocky legend. Old footage of Apollo is played in parts, though the film doesn’t make as direct references to Rocky IV which featured the champion’s death – with Creed’s producers making the clever stylistic choice of erring to the ethos of Rocky and Rocky II, the only sequel to capture the spirit of the first film before the series devolved into light, popcorn entertainment.

Emotionally and technically accomplished, the boxing sequences are some of the best captured in modern cinema. It is fairly typical of Rocky instalments and other boxing flicks including this year’s Southpaw to rely on repeat cutaways, quick-edits and crowd shots to shore up the suspense, but Creed lets its fights take place in long, fluid shots that make you feel like you’re ringside.

Heralding a natural appeal for fans of the trend-setting zero-to-hero story while easily accessible to those without the faintest notion of the Rocky series, Creed is a surprise and welcome entry into the grand echelons of sports epics. For anyone who tuned into the underwhelming Mayweather-Pacquiao fight earlier this year, Creed is actually worth the price of admission, and, this time around, you can believe the hype.

In the Heart of the Sea

Films, by design, are supposed to transport us to another place, another time; and few recent efforts have done it better than this one.

In the Heart of the Sea is based on the non-fiction book of the same name which tells the story that inspired Moby-Dick, whose author, Herman Melville (Ben Whishaw) tracks down the last surviving member of the ill-fated Essex voyage (Brendan Gleeson). He recounts the tale of the ship and its first mate Owen Chase (Chris Hemsworth) and crew (Including a very gaunt Cillian Murphy)

This film succeeds admiringly in transplanting us in a very different world, where whales are the biggest, greatest challenge and there’s no greater achievement than besting Nature’s colossus.

Setting out on the voyage, the action sequences are vivid and consuming, the crew first becoming entangled in a storm and later spotting white water, before a pursuit of a pod of whales.

Under Ron Howard’s direction, the imagery conjured up in this movie evokes the classic imagery of seafaring you can only get from reading epic novels like Moby Dick, not least of all in the moments when Hemsworth is front and centre. Ideally cast and filling the role with his now trademark stoicism, Hemsworth’s presence lent inimitably to even the most dramatic, action-filled sequences.

Taking thematic inspiration from its source material, In the Heart of the Sea shares many themes with Melville’s iconic predecessor – a fear yet fascination with the unknown, the stolid determination of its crew and the absolutely awe-inspiring power of nature confronting both the film’s, and book’s protagonists.

A great effort, In the Heart of the Sea nevertheless errs in two important respects. First, while taking on board the themes of its thematic precursor, the film neglects to explore so many of the aspects of cetology and whaling which made Moby Dick so intriguing. The flick features one engrossing sequence where a young character is forced inside a whale carcass to extract oil, painfully delivering barrel-loads to the waiting crew. Granted, a film cannot do justice to the 600 odd pages Melville dedicates to the countless whalers who lost their toes or the ways in which the sea mammals defend their own, yet a little more of a focus on the craft itself would not have gone amiss.

Secondly, the film’s penultimate moments, filled with moral turpitude and the less than glamorous aspects of the whole affair, were woefully and inadequately dealt with when it came to the final reveal. Content with attracting a wider audience, the decision to leave the narrative’s lynchpin and so much of what drove this story unexplored is a significant letdown, but not one that distracts from an otherwise highly accomplished film.

Weaving elements of Master and Commander, Castaway, Mutiny on the Bounty and, of course, Melville’s classic; In the Heart of the Sea is a thoroughly impressive, sumptuous feast for the eyes.

Creed & In the Heart of the Sea are in Cinemas now.

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