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

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The Courage To Do The Impossible Lies_In_The_Hearts_of_Men. MASTER AND COMMANDER: FAR SIDE OF THE WORLD.

May 2, 2010
Review by  
Rated a Very Helpful Review

Pros:Oscar winning Cinematography and sound.  Gripping action and drama.  Great storytelling.

Cons:None.

The Bottom Line:

Adventure on the high seas, unspoiled by swashbuckling or hyperbole; it was exciting enough with out embellishment.  Check this out.


Master and Commander: Far Side of the World (2003) Directed by Peter Weir

Dr. Stephen Maturin: Jack, I fear you have burdened me with a debt I can never fully repay.
Capt. Jack Aubrey: Nonsense! Name a shrub after me. Something prickly and hard to eradicate.

Patrick O'Brien is one of those authors who elicit almost cult-like followers.  As a member, I won't comment on them except to say that much of the qualities that make the books so very successful have carried over to this movie.

Set in the opening days of the 1800's, with the Napoleonic Wars raging in Europe, the HMS Surprise is given the task of dealing with the French Man-O'-War Acheron, who is promising to become the dominant power in the south seas.

In the opening moments of the movie, you understand why dealing with the Acheron is so important; hoving out of the fog, she rips the Surprise several new ones, and it is only the brilliance and sure command of her captain, Jack Aubrey (Russell Crowe) saves the two hundred men aboard.  The Acheron is heavier, with more guns and more men.  She is newer, faster, and all around more deadly.  The only difference is in the men who man them.  Aubrey thinks that may be enough.

His crew includes his close friend and opposite Dr. Stephen Maturin (Paul Bettany).  Where Aubrey is a more practical strategic thinker, Maturin is a naturalist, and a philosopher.  Their friendship is not without friction, but like their duets, they complement each other, sometimes one in the lead, sometimes the other.

Their ships company extended from the geriatric Mr. Allen, Shipmaster (Robert Pugh) to the barely adolescent Blakeney (Max Pirkis).  The officers were gentlemen of the aristocracy, and the crew was the salt of the lower classes, none so salty as Preserved Killick, Captain's Steward (David Threlfall).  There are a hundred fine performances among the crew; singling out one above another made difficult by the embarrassment of riches.  If I had to single out one, though, it has to be Blakeney.  An officer and a child, a born naturalist with the heart of a warrior, he lost an arm, and took a ship, turning the tide of battle.  This is one tough kid.  Yet Blakeney is the softer side of the movie; in a world with no women, it is the feelings of the young, and shaping them into proper men, that maintains the civilizing instincts of the men.

And while there are three ferocious battles; two against the Acheron, and one against the sea, it is the daily stuff of life on a ship that drives much of this movie.  It is not all blood and guts, rum and the lash.  Maturin's naturalist instincts, the men's relationships with each other, the clever dodges they use to defeat the much more powerful privateer, these are the things that make the movie intriguing.  Surgery is as taut and tense as the fights that led to it, and not all enemies are on other ships.

This fascinating look into the world of the sea two hundred years ago is a worthy film, and a fun history course.  It is this attention to detail, and strict adherence to the spirit of the books that makes this movie such a success.  This book is an amalgamation of the first two books; that leaves 18 more.  Here's to hoping Hollywood will set sail on the next voyage of HMS Surprise.


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