Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World (DVD, 2008, Canadian; Single Disc Version; Widescreen)

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Master and Commander: Adventure on the High Seas

Dec 26, 2004
Review by  
Rated a Very Helpful Review

Pros:Story, Direction, Acting, Cinematography, Score, Action

Cons:Hardly a one

The Bottom Line: The Fox DVD belongs in your collection. Must see Master and Commander!


Master and Commander (2003)

We join the HMS Surprise, a British man o' war somewhere off the coast of Brazil. It is 1805 and the orders are to capture, burn, or sink the Acheron, a far larger and better armed French warship that Napoleon is sending to carry the war into the South Seas. On the quarterdeck is Captain "Lucky Jack" Aubrey (Russell Crowe- Gladiator) and lucky he is because out of the fog bank screams the Acheron with big guns a blazing. After receiving a raking of the decks at the hands of the Acheron, Aubrey lowers boats and has his outmaneuvered vessel towed into the fog, allowing him to slip away.

Director Peter Weir has made as good a wooden ships movie as there is, in my opinion. The ships themselves appear real and creak and pop in the eternal rhythm of the sea. The sound in particular is affecting with every ambient sound loud and clear. Bullets whiz and cannon balls roar close by. The exploding wood fragments when the cannon balls hit are almost as deadly as the shot itself. Men are killed and maimed. The ship puts by to lick its wounds and plan its revenge. The ship's Doctor (Paul Bettany) tends the wounded, amputates limbs, and even does a brain operation at sea. The film shows that boys were sent to sea in those days, expected to act the part of men, and did. Below decks, the guns have pet names assigned to them like, "Jumping Billy," and "Sudden Death."

Even with all the action scenes, Master and Commander is a character driven film. The relationship between the Captain (Russell Crowe) and the Doctor (Paul Bettany - A Beautiful Mind) is emphasized, with the Captain's practical, duty above all, yet fair mindedness contrasted with the Doctor's intellectual curiousity and humanistic ideals. The Doctor hopes to visit new lands and discover new species of flora and fauna. The relationship is tested through various crises and comes through all with flying colors, despite their differing viewpoints on almost everything. The one area where they seem to have no argument is in music, and their string duets are charming and add color to the often drab existence on the man o' war.

Other characters are well-fleshed out also, as the young midshipman Lord Blakeney (Max Pirkis), the too-old midshipman Hollom (Lee Ingleby), the second-in-command Lt. Pullings (James D'Arcy), the able seamen, ships carpenter, cook, etc. are all played well by unknowns. Much humor and attempts at entertaining themselves are shown between the periods of intense terror and boredom that are keynotes of a naval voyage. The ship also puts in at the Galapagos Islands to refit and the Doctor has his chance to discover new species, along with his friend and protege Lord Blakeney.

The cinematography, by Russell Boyd, is breathtaking and any CGI effects are inserted seamlessly so the beauty is not spoiled. The original music by a trio of composers is perfectly suited to the visuals and punctuated by several period classic pieces by composers such as Bach and Mozart. Again, the sound and fury of the sea always provides a counterpoint to everything and it is a fine a job of sound as I have heard in a film. Kudos to the Sound Department led by Andrew Bock.

With a fine story, adapted by Peter Weir from Patrick O'Brian's novels, great direction, acting, cinematography, and sound I give Master and Commander my highest endorsement as a rollicking good tale. Must see!

Other great sea stories I recommend are:

Damn the Defiant

Moby Dick

Captains Courageous

The Sea Hawk

Thanks for reading. View a good film tonight!


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