NOTE: This spoiler was submitted by Jeremy

Herman Melville (Ben Whishaw) travels to Nantucket Island to meet Thomas Nickerson (Brendan Gleeson) to talk to him about his time on the whaling ship Essex. Because he is seeking inspiration for his latest novel, "Moby Dick", Melville has been exceedingly fascinated by the story of the whale that sunk the ship, but Tom refuses to discuss the ordeal, having been haunted for decades over what he lived through, and so he sends Melville away. Tom's wife (Michelle Fairley) urges him to talk about what happened to lift this off his conscience. Reluctantly, Tom decides to tell Melville the story. Tom says that the story was about two men - Captain George Pollard (Benjamin Walker) and First Mate Owen Chase (Chris Hemsworth).

Owen was a farmer and expectant father with his wife Peggy (Charlotte Riley). He had hoped that this would be the day that he would be given the position as captain for the voyage of the Essex. However, when he is told that he will be first mate, he doesn't take it well, voicing his complaints to his superiors and stating how the rest of the crew may not respect Pollard for being inexperienced and coming from a wealthy family, which Pollard can hear in the next room.

Owen says his farewell to Peggy as he joins the crew for their departure. He sees that the second officer is his friend Matthew Joy (Cillian Murphy). Owen also meets a young Tom (here played by Tom Holland), who has taken the position as cabin boy. There is immediate tension between Owen and Pollard. The crew sets off on the sea. At night, Tom gets sick, and when Owen finds him outside, he hangs Tom overboard by his feet to cure his seasickness. Tom then pukes on Owen's foot.

The crew raises their sails on the voyage. Pollard observes a storm in the distance and deliberately orders the crew to sail through it in order to have them better-prepared for dangerous consequences, despite Owen saying they should avoid it. The heavy waters and winds strike the ship and sails, and also causes the anchor to fly onboard and nearly crush some men. After the men evade the storm, Owen goes to confront Pollard for his actions. Pollard wants to return home empty-handed, but Owen reminds him that both their reputations would be ruined if they did such a thing. Pollard decides to continue with the voyage.

The crew encounters a group of sperm whales. The men go out on their boats for the hunt, and Owen tosses a harpoon, striking one whale. The whale pulls the men but it eventually gives out from blood loss. Despite their victory, Owen and Tom look at the dead whale with a hint of remorse. The men gather up to 47 barrels of whale oil and cut up the whale's blubber. Tom is tasked with going inside the whale's head, but he falls in and lands in the whale's juices.

After three months at sea, the crew fails to find more success, as the crew realizes that the waters are cleared out. They stop in Ecuador to resupply. Owen, Pollard, and Joy meet a captain (Jordi Molla) that tells them to seek out a breeding ground way out west, but also warns of a massive demon whale that attacked his crew.

The Essex crew returns to sea to find the breeding ground. They come across it but are soon met by the huge whale. It slams into the ship and knocks several men into the water, while also breaking beneath the ship and causing it to start sinking. It uses its tail to hit the water and strike them further. Eventually, the oil is ignited and causes a fire that takes the ship down faster. The surviving crew members board three separate boats and head out.

Pollard's cousin Henry Coffin (Frank Dillane) blames Owen for their misfortune and turns a gun on him. The other men frantically talk him down and take the gun away from him before he shoots anyone.

Old Tom becomes overwhelmed and doesn't want to continue the story. Melville implores him to finish, stating that all men have dark secrets that haunt them. Tom asks Melville what his is, and Melville admits that he doesn't think he's a good writer, that the story of the Essex has haunted him for a while, and that he feels determined to finish writing his novel. Tom decides to keep going.

The crew is stranded at sea for a while until they spot an island out east. As they head toward it, they have another run-in with the whale, in which Joy gets injured. The men scour the island looking for food and supplies, and they come across a cave where the bones of other deceased sailors are scattered. They stay there for the night to rest and stay warm. Knowing they won't survive there much longer, Owen opts to leave as soon as possible, while Joy stays with three crew members, with Joy knowing he is weakened and ready to die.

The remaining crew set back out to sea on their boats. They try to ration their food, but it eventually ends. As one member dies, the survivors resort to cannibalism to survive, until only Owen, Pollard, and Tom are alive. Old Tom stops the story again, reaching the point in his story where he feels so much pain and remorse for what he did to survive. His wife consoles him and reassures him that she would have loved him even if she knew about this secret before they married.

The whale returns toward Owen's boat, and while he gets ready to strike it, he simply watches it and sees the harpoon wound on its side. He lets it go. The men later see seagulls flying overhead, meaning they are close to land. They are rescued by another ship and are returned to Nantucket Island, where word of the Essex story has spread. Owen reunites with Peggy and finally meets his daughter after so many years.

Owen and Pollard are both called to testify on the sinking of the Essex. They are told to lie and say that the ship ran aground in order to not scare away potential investors. Pollard agrees but Owen refuses to lie and leaves. Pollard gets ready to testify and states that the ship was sunk by a whale.

Tom finishes his story, and Melville tells him the book will be fictional. The final scene shows Melville writing "Moby Dick", with the text stating that he completed the story in 1850 and had the book published a year later. Nathaniel Hawthorne, one of Melville's idols, called the book "America's epic."

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