Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World (2003)

Action, Adventure, Drama, War
Russell Crowe, Paul Bettany, Billy Boyd, James D'Arcy
During the Napoleonic Wars, a brash British captain pushes his ship and crew to their limits in pursuit of a formidable French war vessel around South America.
Russell Crowe's rough charm is put to good use in this masterful adaptation of Patrick O'Brian's novel.
  • 20th Century Fox Company:
  • PG-13 Rated:
  • IMDB link IMDB:
  • 14 Nov 2003 Released:
  • 20 Apr 2004 DVD Release:
  • $93.9M Box office:

All subtitles:



Trailer:

Masterly and Commanding5/10
Few films manage to capture the era in which the original work was set and often rely on cliches of the particular genre at the expense of the core story. This film manages to avoid these pitfalls but more importantly serves as a worthwhile historical document. Anyone who is new to this period of history will not go far wrong keeping a copy of this movie as the attention to detail is excellent and adds to the experience as a whole (teachers take note).

This movie manages to tread a fine line between gritty realism and Boy's Own, portraying the pursuit of an elite French warship by an older embattled British frigate. The production values are very high and the dialogue and length allow the director a better than average framework for character development. The predominantly unknown British supporting cast (some aged as young as 12) are expertly handled and provide a counter balance to the excellent performances of Crowe and Bettany. Crowe's delivery is very reminiscent of Richard Burton, exuding a measured screen presence without overpowering the dialogue.

It would have been easy for the director to read through the salty notes of previous period pieces and deliver the usual tale of ocean going brutality and scurvy encrusted woe but Peter Weir's version of order through respect and camaraderie is far more believable especially when you realize that the sailor's greatest enemy was the ocean itself.

I found little to dislike and much to admire. Highly recommended.
Enjoy the ride10/10
Master and Commander succeeds not so much in the fact that it has an exceptional plot, but in the fact that it carries the viewer along on its voyage exceptionally. It follows the voyage of Captain "Lucky Jack" Aubrey sailing for the English empire while being chased by a French vessel during the Napoleonic Wars. It's not an entirely innovative or original plot, but it's the experience rather than the plot that drives this movie. The chemistry between the characters and strong performances by all is what make it an exceptional movie. Rather than casting good-looking Hollywood types as crew members, Peter Weir went after people who look like believable seamen who are also great actors in their own right. The cast even had a sort of boot camp training so that everyone knew how to make the ship function. It is this attention to detail that make the movie so believable and enjoyable. Rather than indulging itself in melodrama and Hollywood type moral-based cliches, this film pulls no punches about how it perceives the workings of a British Naval ship to function in the early 19th century. It simply bleeds authenticity at every corner. Excellent performances by Crowe and his doctor right-hand-man played by Paul Bettany only add to the thrill.

The film also has a great original and non-original score which makes it flow perfectly. The interaction between the ship members is what makes it a success. Though 2+hours may seem like a long time to spend with an all-male cast inside a ship, I was never once bored. Instead, you truly feel like you are in the ship with them and at the end you feel like you would want to follow Russel Crowe's "Captain Jack" virtually anywhere he would lead.
Masterfully Done5/10
"Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World" is half swashbuckling action movie, half detailed examination of life in the 19th-century British navy, and all entertaining. Director Peter Weir has created an intriguing film that nicely balances fierce battle sequences with quiet, intimate scenes.

Nearly all of the film takes place aboard the HMS Surprise, under the command of Captain "Lucky" Jack Aubrey (Russell Crowe). The captain's orders: to intercept and disable the French privateer Acheron, which is troubling British vessels off the coast of South America. The two ships clash early on, and the Surprise is thoroughly routed--the Acheron is larger, faster, and more modern. But Aubrey, with a determination that might not entirely be due to his sense of duty, is not one to give up, and the Surprise chases the Acheron--and/or vice versa--down the Brazilian coast, around Cape Horn, and to the Gallapagos Islands.

That's the action part. The intimate part involves Aubrey's relationship with the ship's surgeon, Stephan Marutin (Paul Bettany). Stephan is a quiet intellectual and devout naturallist, whose train of thought is foraying into the territory that would make Darwin a household name later in the century. He's also the only one among the crew who's either willing or able to call Aubrey's decisions into question. He provides a grounding force for the captain, and the friendship between these two dissimilar men is the emotional heart of the story.

I've yet to read any of the Patrick O'Brian series upon which "Master and Commander" is based, but the movie shows every evidence of being derived from a painstakingly and meticulously detailed work, one which has gone to great lengths to re-create the world and environment of these men. The details on screen are wonderful, depicting the sort of harsh conditions that make the contestants on those "reality" series look like the overglorified wimps they are. The crew of the Surprise (many of them not older than twenty) lives in claustrophobic and none-too-clean quarters--at times it seems as if every inch of the screen is crammed full--and sleep in hammocks that may very well end up serving as their shrouds. Battles are chaotic, with cannon fire ripping huge holes in the ship and sending shrapnel in every direction. The weather seems to exist only in extremes: still heat, raging tempests, even snow as they drift down near the Antarctic circle. Good service is rewarded with extra rations of grog and brandy, insubordination is punished by the whip. It's a place where both close friendships and deep resentments can grow, and the tension in the air at times feels like a living presence.

Crowe dominates the production, once again proving himself one of the best leading men working in movies. In his hands, Jack Aubrey is a natural leader of men: clever, courageous, determined, and capable of what nowadays is called "thinking outside the box." He is frequently confronted with difficult choices, but takes his responsibilities and the consequences of his actions unflinchingly. Bettany turns in an equally good performance as Aubrey's emotional and ideological opposite; the two men play wonderfully off of each other. Most of the rest of the crew tends to blur together (the exceptions include a young officer who's right arm gets amputated early on, and later takes command of the ship), but "Lord of the Rings" fans will be amused to notice Billy Boyd among the ranks.

The combination of action and introspection in "Master and Commander" at times seems like an odd mix, but the film succeeds on both levels. Definitely a voyage worth taking.
"We have Surprise on our side..."9/10
And surprised I was. After hearing a friend rant endlessly about it, and having nothing to do one Friday night, I rented Master and Commander. The marketing staff should be cackling in glee, that a female in her 20's, would love this movie. It's an amazing movie. Russell Crowe is a force of nature, and all the other actors from Paul Bettany to Billy Boyd give wonderful performances. I especially enjoyed the details of life at sea, though most would call them boring. The day after my 5-day rental, I had to run to the nearest shop and buy the DVD, and have since re-watched it endlessly. I've never seen a more beautifully adapted, filmed and acted movie. Five stars out of five.
The Most Realistic and Exciting Sea Saga Ever5/10



See this film NOW at the best, state of the art theater you can find. You'll know why five minutes in.

I didn't want to leave the theater when this roller coaster rhapsody to sea soldiery circa 1805 was over. It's stirring entertainment. No love interests needed. This was what it was really like. One ship, 197 men, 4500 miles from home. Chasing a French ship twice her size. No retreat.


Pirates of the Crappy Be-in was a cute romp, but Master and Commander has real ships, real crews, real cannon,convincing characters, historical accuracy and a REAL film director.

Director/ Peter Weir (Witness) has returned big time and, with this one film, revived classic Australian realism, actually surpassing the production values of Peter Jackson's Ring Trilogy. This is not a fantasy film, but history - painstakingly recreated. And rousing history it is, with plenty of action AND robust character development. The adaptation by Weir and John Colley is right on target, brimming with great characters and scenes.


And Russel Crowe? Other than "The Insider", this is his best role ever. Gladiator was just a warm-up. A Beautiful Mind? Well, nice acting from the neck up. Go see this if you want to see both his athleticism and his formidable acting chops! And he decent musical gifts as well (RC studied violin for the role).

I've always thought Weir was one of our great directors. Now he's been given all the toys Peter Jackson enjoys. And Weir uses them to great effect - recreating a nautical reality that lacks nothing except the need to wipe your face every ten seconds. The cutting of Russel Boyd's fabulous photography is perfect. You get to know every inch of the ship, topside and down below. You also get a strong sense of the social dynamics on board - how men got along with each other for so many months. I felt swept along in a perfect mix of virile action and characters I could get to know and care for. One thing I loved was the constant caring between many of the men along the rank and file. There's a strong sense of honor and decency in the film. Yet enough grog flows to keep things loose.

This is vigorous stuff and my most thrilling two hours in a theater for a while. Congratulations to everyone involved.

For now, the best director Oscar goes to Peter Weir over Clint Eastwood (Mystic River)in 2004. Master and Commander is my pick for best picture, just because it is so masterfully realized. A stunning, exhilarating, and - at last - realistic action saga.