When a sudden attack by a French warship inflicts casualities and severe damage upon his vessel, Captain "Lucky" Jack Aubrey (Crowe) of the British Royal Navy is torn between duty and friendship as he embarks on a thrillin... more »g, high-stakes chase across two oceans to intercept and capture the enemy at any cost. Nominated for 10 Academy Awards including Best Picture!« less
Michael J. Mazza | Pittsburgh, PA USA | 02/28/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
""Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World," directed by Peter Weir, tells the rousing story of HMS Surprise, an English warship sailing around South America during the Napoleonic era. The ship's captain (played by Russell Crowe) engages in a battle of wits, wills, and firepower with a rival captain during the perilous sea trek.This is a vivid, exciting tale of naval warfare, but it's also a satisfying and moving portrayal of a unique community: the company of a warship. The film is full of stirring action scenes, but it is equally rich in the details of the men's everyday life: their food, shipboard entertainment, naval tradition, etc. It's a sweaty, muscular portrait that really puts you in the midst of this fascinating world.Weir gets superb performances from the large ensemble cast. Crowe won my heart as the captain: he portrays a man who is tough and witty, but also humane and reasonable. Paul Bettany plays the ship's surgeon, both a loyal friend and verbal sparring partner for the captain; it's a marvelously realized relationship. The rest of the cast rises to the high mark set by these excellent performers; Max Pirkis in particular shines as a courageous young midshipman.There are some intense scenes of violence and combat surgery. But this material is not gratuitous, and is handled with care by Weir, who never loses sight of his characters' humanity. And the film is also about much more than war; it's also about exploring a distant land and seeing wondrous sights. There are nice moments of humor to balance out the film's serious themes of military discipline, ethics and tactics. Overall, M&C is a rousing adventure story, told with heart. As a Navy veteran myself, I'd like to thank and commend all involved with this film."
The Battle Is On
yardoftin | Attica, KS USA | 11/16/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Master and Commander is not just for Patrick O'Brian fans. Anyone who enjoys action and drama will enjoy this film. It ranges from great battle scenes with the tang of salt spray to human drama. The primary plot involves a cat and mouse game, set in 1805 during the Napoleonic wars, between Captain Aubrey's (Russell Crowe's) ship Surprise and his enemy a French ship Acheron. The Acheron is by far the superior ship in speed, size, and firepower. Captain Aubrey has orders to take the Acheron, while the French seem all too aware of his orders. The chase passes around the tip of South America leaving the Atlantic and entering the Pacific Ocean where Acheron will raise money for Emperor Napoleon by raiding English whalers. The sailing is marvelously recreated. Along for the ride we experience sailing, sea tactics, and life on board a ship of this era. The apprenticeship approach to schooling officers during the Napoleonic era placed children on board fighting vessels. We even see a brief glimpse of a lesson in navigation Captain Aubrey is giving the young midshipmen. Life in harm's way as the sea becomes a battlefield spares neither young nor old. The crowding, stale food, and mental toll that are a fact of life on vessels that are at sea for long periods of time are graphically portrayed. The mood is lightened by the exhilaration of the hunt and moments of courage, kindness, and Aubrey's penchant for terrible puns, which fans of O'Brian's books will recognize.Dr. Stephen Maturin (Paul Bettany), the side kick of this famous duo, provides a counterpoint to Aubrey's sense of duty. Through him we see medicine of the period grope its way toward the future. As an amateur naturalist, Dr. Maturin visits the Galapagos Islands much as Darwin would have during his famous trip on HMS Beagle 30 years after the 1805 date of the movie. In fact, Dr. Maturin's desire to visit the Islands becomes a source of conflict between himself and the single minded Aubrey. The resolution to the conflict is a measure of the friendship between Dr. Maturin and "Lucky Jack" Aubrey."
Unquestionably brilliant visually
Richard Leveson | Toronto | 04/21/2004
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Those of us who have read the entire series of Patrick O'Brien's books on the adventures of Captain Jack Aubrey and his dear friend, Dr. Stephen Maturin during the Napoleonic wars and have soaked up the atmosphere and sense of history so unfailingly captured in those books, are going to be hard to satisfy with any film representation. So although I have great respect for Peter Weir, I did not have high hopes as I sat down to watch the movie.The opening scenes, of a darkened sea and a silent three-masted 'Surprise', with only night watch on deck and most hands asleep below, gives as true a sense of period as any I could possibly imagine - and captivated me immediately. The attention to detail is remarkable and the handling of the crew; surely one of the most difficult aspects of making such a film; utterly masterful. You can smell the lower deck with the hammocks tight-packed with sleeping, farting, snorting bodies and livestock penned into the same quarters. The battle scenes are stunningly effective and the impact of shot and ball makes you wince in a manner that you'd not think possible in an age where we constantly see violent action and are inured to the sight of exploding flesh. That you could not follow who was who in the melees - or determine quite how the various battles between ships were unfolding - didn't matter, because that is exactly how such actions are in reality. Who knows how many died by friendly fire in the confusion of those hand-to-hand encounters? The percentage must have been sizable, as it is even today.Russel Crowe's performance as the utterly resolute and masterful sailor, 'Lucky' Jack Aubrey, is truly brilliant. His English accent falters little and he gives the role all the subtlety required of a character whose own subtlety is not immediately evident. Aubrey is a commander who is intensely sensitive to the mood of his crew - knows all their names - and treats them with a rare humanity for the early 19th century Royal Navy. We know he acquired this sense, in part, because as a young midshipman, he was once demoted to the rank of common sailor; and in this experience, came to understand them as few officers could.The disappointment, for me, was in the lack of development of Dr. Maturin's character. In the books, Maturin (played here by Paul Bettany) is in a sense the main character and much of what happens is seen through his eyes. He is an immensely complex man, deeply learned, and with a quaint 18th century manner of speech which contains much Irish mannerism. "You are to consider" he will say, or "I am persuaded that ...". His turn-out for formal dining occasions is the subject of much affectionate amusement among the crew (for they take pride in him as 'their' learned physician, who cares deeply for his patients) - and vexation for his Commander; for he may appear at dinner in a heavily blood-stained jacket, unwashed for several days, or with his wig awry. He is also evidently a man whose apparent age "might have been anything between twenty and sixty" and he is small and "ill-looking". He and Jack are total opposites and it is the interplay between the two characters; the great affection they hold for one another, that is the spirit of the books. So I say that I was disappointed that Stephen was not better cast and his character was not more defined. I can however also say that those scenes where the two of them make music together do succeed, by the nature of the music chosen, in coming close to the spirit of the book. I should also emphasize that we cannot blame Paul Bettany for this; the problem lies in the casting and in character development (Paul Bettany looks too young and well-kempt for the part and is given little chance to 'be' Stephen).So on the visual level this is a brilliant film and Crowe is most convincing in his role. Weir has performed a labour of love and has soaked himself in the period and the genre.People who read the books, and say that they cannot get past the vast amount of technical detail, will find no relief in the film. O'Brien was uncompromising in his use of nautical terminology and indeed of period language - readers have to take the responsibility to inform themselves in order to appreciate the book and now, to some degree, viewers of this film have the same responsibility."
Beat to "General Quarters" For This One
!Edwin C. Pauzer | New York City | 08/07/2007
(4 out of 5 stars)
"At the beginning of the nineteenth century, Britain and Franch were mortal enemies fighting for dominance of Europe by land and sea. England was threatened with invasion for the first time in three hundred years. The only thing protecting the isle was the Royal Navy. This is the backdrop of Master and Commander who fights for England with his brave crew and stout ship against France on the far side of the world.
Russell Crowe heads a first rate cast that replays a genre that hasn't been seen since Gregory Peck played the title role of "Horatio Hornblower." From a consistent script and story, one gets the impression of what life was like on the high seas during this time and how quickly, silently, and deadly mortal danger could arise. There was no sonar or radar save those in one's sight, hearing and judgment. And the fog could be one's enemy as much as it could be a friend.
Besides the acting, the music lent perfectly to the story, and one can recognize Bach's Cello Suite No. 1 played by Yo Yo Ma. My favorite was Boccherini's La Musica Notturna Della providing the background for captain's order to beat to "General Quarters."
As soon as you can, steer a course and set sail to your nearest store and purchase "Master and Commander..." It's one of those stories that seems to get better with each viewing."
A great character piece
!Edwin C. Pauzer | 03/20/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The main complaint people seem to have about Master and Commander is that, in effect, there aren't enough explosions. Indeed, if you're looking for a hands-down action movie with flying wood and bullets every which way and a battle every five minutes, you'll probably be disappointed with M&C. But it's that very lack of brainless violence and "cool action" that makes this movie stand out. It's rare to see an action movie with such fully developed characters, and Peter Weir could well have limited the characters in favor of more action, which would no doubt have boosted the box office. But the characters are what do it for this movie: the attention spent on the nuances in the friendship between Aubrey and Maturin, the way even children must develop to the "grown-up" conditions of naval life, the way the seamen react to their captain's executive decisions, sometimes leading to the deaths of their companions. If this film was more concerned with an intricate and action-filled plot, not only would it be untrue to the books on which it's based, but it would sacrifice what Weir and Patrick O'Brien himself believed to be most important.In short, if you go into this movie expecting "Braveheart" or "Horation Hornblower," you probably won't like it. But if your expectations for character development are high, you'll be pleasantly surprised."