I am currently watching the newest imagining of the classic novel Moby Dick, written by Herman Melville in 1851. The first movie made from the book was filmed in 1956. Gregory Peck starred as Captain Ahab, a man tortured with a need for revenge on the white whale that took his leg. The 2010 TV series version stars William Hurt as the peg-legged captain, a man who drove his crew through the ocean on a journey into the vast watery depths of hell.
There is a scene in the beginning of the movie. It set the whole movie for me. The Pequod, the captain’s whaling ship has set sail on it’s fatal quest for the white whale. The crew is busy on deck, excited, leaping and bounding. In his cabin though, we see William Hurt, pondering this journey. The scene cuts to the whale itself, gliding through the sun-lanced sea, all deadly intent. And we are given the impression that the whale too has some knowledge of the epic to come.
I confess to not having read the book. My father recommended me this movie on the merit that it very closely follows the novel. I intend to read this book now and see if that holds true. The movie (on two separate DVDs) is very well done. Charlie Cox, most famous for the lead role in Stardust, plays an innocent Ishmael, on his first whaling trip. The young man watches as things go from uneasy to outright madness when Ahab begins to lose his grip on the crew and reality. And all the meanwhile the whale seems to be playing a devil’s game with Ahab, bringing him further and further from reason. Still, in all of it, William Hurt gives a performance so strong that you believe there is something there, some connection between him and his leviathan opponent.
Also lending his acting talent, Ethan Hawke (Gattaca, Taking Lives) plays as the divided first mate, Mr. Starbuck. I do not care overly for Ethan Hawke. There is a sort of slyness in him I feel shows in him on camera. Also, I have never really liked any movies that he has been a lead in. As a supporting character in this movie though, I think he does a great job. Mr. Starbuck watches his captain and friend become completely deranged with revenge.
It is interesting to note the power of the captain at sea. In that time, the captain’s word was law. There were measures taken for insanity, but a lot of things could happen on the sea before things were set right. A man, a logical man driven mad with vengeance, but armed with the knowledge and power to go to his doom, if he chooses — well it is an interesting thought.
The final scene, where Ahab battles the whale is wonderful. Ahab has nothing in him but the whale, and he goes to his fate like a man who always knew that was how it would end.
All in all, I give it 4 out of 5 harpoons. Or to quote Captain Ahab, “A moldy and an oversalted death, but I’ll have my revenge. I’ll spit death at him!”
Until next time,