NEW YORK (WABC) -- The real-life story that inspired Herman Melville's literary classic Moby Dick hits theaters this weekend, and "In the Heart of Sea" brings the tale to the big screen.
The story begins two centuries ago off the coast of Massachusetts, where brave men ranged far and wide in pursuit of giant whales.
The film has left critics split down the middle - half jeering and half cheering - and it's not going to be on the top 10 list of the best movies of the year. But it is still worth the watch.
Director Ron Howard required the latest 21st century technology to bring the 19th century story to life.
The dialogue is fictional, but the veteran whale man played by Chris Hemsworth really lived, and so did his inexperienced boss played by Ben Walker.
A couple of hundred years ago, the oil for lamps came not from the ground, but from the sea, from inside giant whales that men risked their lives to kill.
An especially large whale attacks the ship, wrecks it and forces the survivors to drift for months in small boats with very little to eat or drink.
It's tough enough to watch the men get so skinny in the course of their ordeal on the open ocean, as Howard asked his actors to get thin for real. So by the end, the performers were existing on about 500 calories a day.
"All the actors wanted to rise to the occasion because they were playing, you know, they're playing real people," Howard said. "I will never forget the level of commitment they all gave."
But that doesn't mean it was easy.
"We were exhausted," Hemsworth said. "We were uncomfortable. We were wet. We were tired. We were hungry...It was brutal, just the sort of insanity that plays out in the mood swings and just the sensitivity to trivial things. And yeah, it was not fun. Probably less enjoyable for the people around us to deal with our moods and mood swings."
CLICK HERE to read more about what Howard and Hemsworth had to say about the film.
Sandy Kenyon reviews 'In the Heart of the Sea'