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Overall Rating
4.11

Awesome45.86%
Worth A Look: 34.81%
Just Average: 8.29%
Pretty Crappy: 6.63%
Sucks: 4.42%

9 reviews, 127 user ratings


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Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World
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by Alexandre Paquin

"A film that truly understands the sea and its appeal"
4 stars

Director Peter Weir's "Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World," based on Patrick O'Brian's novels, is a remarkable, multi-faceted film of subtle charm. A nautical drama in the purest sense of the term, it demonstrates, just like its source material, an implicit knowledge of the sea, of its ways and customs, and of the rugged, yet appealing, life awaiting those who choose (or are forced to) venture away from sight of land.

In 1805, with Napoleon extending his grip over Continental Europe, Captain Jack Aubrey (Russell Crowe) of the British frigate HMS Surprise is given the order to intercept and sink, capture, or otherwise dispose of the French warship Acheron, a faster and better-armed vessel last seen off the Brazilian coast. After surviving a surprise attack by the Acheron, Aubrey decides to follow the elusive French ship around Cape Horn into the Pacific Ocean. Aubrey's friend, medical officer Stephen Maturin (Paul Bettany), welcomes the possibility of studying wildlife on the GalŠpagos Islands, where the Surprise makes landfall, but the captain's dedication to the pursuit of the Acheron inevitably brings tension between the two men.

In spite of its compelling characters and the overriding concern of the chase at the basis of Master and Commander's plot, the film remains merely satisfactory as a narrative. Transitions between key scenes are, unfortunately, roughly handled, and the film's treatment consequently has an episodic feel that did not seem to be firmly embedded in the screenplay. Nevertheless, the picture succeeds on several levels.

The real dramatic tension of the film stems neither from the principal characters nor from the pursuit of the French ship, but from the sea itself, a source of subsistence and potential wealth, but also one of constant and unpredictable peril, a theme masterly dramatized in French writer Pierre Loti's classic PÍcheur d'Islande ("Iceland Fisherman"), and one which O'Brian also conveyed in his novels. The film depicts the sea in all its extremes, from the restless Atlantic Ocean of the "roaring forties" and "screaming fifties," to the Doldrums off the GalŠpagos Islands, as sailors bow to the immutable golden rule of naval life that those who sail on the sea are constantly at its mercy. Like O'Brian's novels, much of the film's appeal is the result of the emphasis on atmosphere rather than action, and the peculiar customs of sailors, particularly the constant irrationalization of fear through superstition, play a central part in the unfolding of the story. With its high production values and its attention to detail, Master and Commander is a film for the senses -- we can almost feel the cold, salty air and the rank odour of sweat and rotting wood emanating from the ship's bowels.

Perhaps because the film puts so much emphasis on the element at the centre of the narrative (not unlike the desert in Lawrence of Arabia, for instance), or perhaps it is impossible to condense the two books giving the film its title, let alone O'Brian's twenty Aubrey-Maturin novels, into a two-hour film, most of the characters lack depth. The ongoing relationship between Captain Aubrey and his surgeon, of capital importance in the novels, is unexplained, although we can clearly see their individual personalities and their differences both in concerns and approaches. The two characters are mostly left aside, something for which to be somewhat thankful after watching Tom Cruise's encore-begging performance in Edward Zwick's The Last Samurai, but Russell Crowe's magnificent performance deserved more attention.

Unlike the Zwick film, Master and Commander does not attempt to prettify its setting to manipulate the audience's sympathies, but it is to be feared that a key element was changed from the books for a less-than-noble reason. O'Brian's novel The Far Side of the World takes place during the War of 1812, and Aubrey's orders were to intercept an American ship, the USS Norfolk. Well, in the glorious days of the "War on Terror," no film with a price tag of $150 million can hope to make a decent return on investment if the Americans play the bad guys. The film, after all, bears the imprimatur of, among others, Miramax Films, that wonderful company known for shamelessly advertising its films for major awards after chopping them up in pieces (including, I suspect, this one), but also for going squeamish over The Quiet American's portrayal of American foreign policy, or for basically killing any chance of success that Buffalo Soldiers could have had. So, short of making Jack Aubrey hail from Boston, our valiant captain ends up fighting a worthier foe, the sniveling French. Lovely sense of timing for a film that finished shooting in November 2002.

This being said, Master and Commander is a remarkable film of infinite interest for those who are fascinated by the sea and by naval warfare. Reverential -- though perhaps too much -- to Patrick O'Brian's novels, the film may be a disappointment to those expecting another Pirates of the Caribbean, but deep within the apparent drudgery of the naval service one can find a true sense of camaraderie and real excitement in life on the sea.

Note on the sources: For more information on the Royal Navy of the period, see David Davies's "Fighting Ships," chapters 1-3.

link directly to this review at http://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=8323&reviewer=287
originally posted: 01/05/04 22:11:09
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User Comments

9/12/17 morris campbell good needs 2 be shorter tho 4 stars
5/01/14 Qqypfvih The prices with the pills in these and then back once more as about all of pounds by curbin 3 stars
9/19/10 Jan Patterson I fell in love with the Sea and the ship. Direction, acting, sound, camera- all A+ 5 stars
6/24/09 Dan One of the best movies I've ever seen. If you enjoy history, this film is for you . 5 stars
1/09/09 Anonymous. i don't usually watch this sort of thing, but i actually enjoyed this. 4 stars
12/01/08 Chris Stunningly well-made modern classic, gripping intellectual drama 5 stars
11/02/08 Shaun Wallner Well made. 5 stars
9/25/08 Annie G My guys love this film, but Iíve never managed to stay awake through it. 3 stars
5/21/08 PAUL SHORTT THIS EPIC ADVENTURE STEERS A TRUE COURSE THROUGH STORM AND SACRIFICE AND ARRIVES TRIUMPHANT 5 stars
11/20/07 G. Webster loved it! visually beautiful.great acting by russell crowe 5 stars
9/24/07 Joe Kacmarynski One of the BEST films I have ever seen. A real Swashbuckler, but yet poignant. 5 stars
7/07/07 crombie excellent-to those with a brain, not a joystick 5 stars
4/21/07 Tarik WOUNDERFUL FILM , Best scene is the scene with the fog when the acheron attacked the Surpri 5 stars
3/10/07 Roy F. Moore Special effects and music made this film soar...or sail, as the case may be. 5 stars
1/05/07 Watch This Movie! possibly one of the greatest depictions of life on a ship of war ever. 5 stars
1/01/07 MO very gripping and exciting. good characters mostly. 5 stars
9/27/06 BadBoy Fantastic scenery and massive sets,a lot of wrk has gone into this film.Russle Crow ws GR8! 5 stars
9/12/06 Bitchflaps Exciting, but dumb. Would have benefitted from the omission of its talkier segments. 4 stars
8/21/06 jeanne You've got to love a man who can perform abdominal surgery on himself! Bravo! 5 stars
6/24/06 MP Bartley Terrific attention to detail, great characters, super action. Weir does it again 5 stars
6/10/06 Dan One of the best movies my eyes have ever had the good graces of grazing. 5 stars
5/20/06 Kcaj ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 1 stars
5/03/06 R.W.Welch Runs on a bit but well captures the era of wooden ships and iron men. 4 stars
2/25/06 Quigley the movie is a bore most of the time, with really choppy confused action. russell was great 2 stars
1/07/06 gerry dunne best movie of this decade so far (jan 20060 5 stars
11/25/05 Joe Z Its not just an adventure film for adults its incredible for everyone my second favorite mo 5 stars
11/20/05 tatum The best seafaring movie ever 5 stars
11/10/05 Bob Paddington 4 stars
11/05/05 Ken Schroeder It's a slice of life on the salty seas; it's all about the journey. 2 stars
9/29/05 Jessica An AMAZING Movie......I Love Watching It! 5 stars
9/18/05 Jonathon Holmes zzzzzzzzz 2 stars
8/18/05 ES lesser of two weevils = priceless 3 stars
6/17/05 Hasanin Abdelsamad an excellent film,i almost lived among the details 5 stars
5/23/05 Nathan Westfall one of the greatest movies I have ever seen 5 stars
5/06/05 smitty A truly breathtaking film, but bloody beastly trying to decipher what the hell's being said 4 stars
4/24/05 Quigley this awful movie screams "STYLE OVER SUBSTANCE!" Even Russsell Crowe can't save this oyster 1 stars
4/03/05 Ric A thrilling journey, this is a sweeping adventure that matches the best of naval cinema. 5 stars
2/16/05 kathleen4691 Good film, but don't expect the book. 4 stars
1/28/05 Don GREAT! 5 stars
1/21/05 Tjalda L. Schiel Terrific rendition of O'Brien's work. 5 stars
11/16/04 Danish Cookie Two thumbs way down. Crowe worst movie 1 stars
11/11/04 anti - russell crowe this movie should be banned!!! It gave me a panic attack from the gory scenes! terrible! 1 stars
10/31/04 Charles S. Lewis by far..and outstanding film! When does the adventure continue? 5 stars
10/12/04 Marilee An absolutely splendid film. I was pulled into the world of the sailors and swept along. 5 stars
9/11/04 Dan Wtf? Pwnt. 5 stars
8/13/04 Daveman Terrific fun. Paul Bettany is outstanding, Crowe is pretty damn great too. 4 stars
8/08/04 Ron Good but the novels by Patrick O'Brian are even better. 4 stars
7/30/04 DJ Wtf? Pwnt. 5 stars
7/29/04 Phil boorrriiiiinnnngg!!!!!!! too long, not enough action.....*sigh* 2 stars
7/20/04 Harry J Pretty good. Seeing it once is enough though. 4 stars
7/19/04 Stephanie I loved this movie more than life itself. James D'arcy was fabulous! 5 stars
7/12/04 Dan I'm a 16 year old kid, and let me tell you. This movie rocks. 5 stars
6/30/04 Mikey Crunt But the books had gay sex scenes. Where were they?? 3 stars
6/22/04 Phil M. Aficionado Well crafted, acted, and filmed. Engaging character (Crowe). Needs subtitles for accents. 4 stars
6/20/04 Jim Pretty good sea battles and performances, like "Star Trek" on the ocean. 4 stars
6/18/04 Denise Duspiva good but i would have liked a little more story 4 stars
6/07/04 Ron Miller Good.... but Best movie nominee... don't think so! 3 stars
6/06/04 Caroline LOVED the music, scenery, and acting- will definitely buy DVD 5 stars
6/04/04 Gregmond Liked it :) 5 stars
6/02/04 Littlepurch Kid whose arm was amputated is my gran's, sister-in law's, friend's grandson! I'm so proud! 5 stars
5/31/04 Nobody Great with a capital G!!! 5 stars
5/30/04 Frazier Worth a look, a one time see, but surprisingly boring. 4 stars
5/28/04 Irene fantastic and wonderfully historical 5 stars
4/28/04 Taylor Fladgate Grandiose scenery, thin plot & script. 3 stars
4/24/04 Shams Huque Good looking film - overrated though. 4 stars
4/19/04 ALI HBOUS the cinematography is a work of art 4 stars
4/17/04 Albert H. Taylor Jr. I've read the book and I like the movie. 4 stars
3/08/04 holly awesome! 5 stars
3/06/04 Goofy Maxwell Refreshing adventure, driven more by curiosity than character. 4 stars
2/09/04 Jenny Tullwartz Another super-hyped "What's all the fuss about" film. GalŠpagos scenes only intresting part 3 stars
2/02/04 Alexia Katz Thin on plot, yet so compelling that it is impossible to look away 5 stars
1/19/04 Suzi Mitchell loved every minute 5 stars
1/10/04 Angela The film's exciting indeed, but not deep enough...another typical hollywood piece?! 3 stars
1/05/04 Chris Alittle too long and not enough plotlines but still very good. Crowe is oscar worthy. 4 stars
1/02/04 Tony Mazzeo Read the books Movie works 4 stars
1/01/04 OnlyChild Storm scenes were amazing, other than that, it was bordering on boring 3 stars
12/30/03 John Bale Crowe is no Laughton, but gritty creation of 19th c. Naval life is excellent 5 stars
12/28/03 Michael Strauss Re: "Master and Commander/ The Far Side of the World" I cannot take it any longer. How can 1 stars
12/26/03 Elizabeth Loved it! History on the high seas. 5 stars
12/26/03 Jon Fine except the plot was terrible. I found myself not caring about the characters. 3 stars
12/25/03 PATRICK Very realistic battles, good story, good soundtrack 5 stars
12/19/03 Martha Cast A fine rendition of some excellent books, although they put too many of them in one movie 5 stars
12/18/03 Zanthan A movie about men taking action and making their own destiny, not just fulfilling one. 5 stars
12/18/03 alien assassin Grow up and get a life, Mike. This is one of the BEST films of 2003 !!!! 5 stars
12/11/03 Mike This film was boring and awful in every respect 1 stars
12/10/03 ira crowe undoubtedly, an oscar contender 5 stars
12/05/03 Helen Bradley great photography, poor acting/script 2 stars
12/04/03 katsat Well-made, lotsa action but character development was sacrificed. Not my cuppa tea. 3 stars
12/04/03 Terry Stewart One of the best this year 5 stars
12/03/03 CK Better sea battle sequence than Pirates of the Car..whatever 5 stars
12/03/03 Koitus "Okay." Pity the woman in my row .. she was "tappity, tappity" at "those" two scenes! ;-) 3 stars
12/01/03 moira I thought it was very enjoyable! 4 stars
12/01/03 Dan the Man Really great sea adventure 5 stars
11/30/03 KingNeutron Deserves better reviews. Some grim scenes, but enjoyable anyway. 5 stars
11/29/03 john a sensational adventure movie - 5 stars
11/26/03 Lord Chu Love it. 5 stars
11/25/03 Gi Gi the amputation scene was awesome 5 stars
11/24/03 nancy I loved it! Plenty of character development plus action. 5 stars
11/22/03 Mary I saw 3 awesome seconds, some really fake scenes, the rest was average.. 4 stars
11/21/03 Walton This is a complete piece of trash. 1 stars
11/21/03 Fitz This movie expects more out o f the viewer, then most movies. Enjoyable! 4 stars
11/20/03 Artist Freak Good solid high seas adventure. Not great art, but good fun. 4 stars
11/20/03 homer simpson Great battle scenes, other wise it sucked 3 stars
11/20/03 horndog huh? oh I just woke up after my nap during this turd! 1 stars
11/20/03 Andrew The name is enough - I refuse to pay money to see this turd baby! 5 stars
11/19/03 Brian Lutz Most overrated film of 2003...or ever 2 stars
11/19/03 Jack Bourbon A classic a la Shawshank. Not GREAT filmmaking, but solid and entertaining for sure 4 stars
11/19/03 Josh Standlee It was okay, but not Oscar worthy. 3 stars
11/18/03 john excellent , fun, sound fine 5 stars
11/18/03 Johnny's Been Rotten I saw it. I loved it. 5 stars
11/18/03 Buffalo Mike Very good, excellent cinimatography. However, will dissapoint video game freaks and cats. 5 stars
11/18/03 Joe Entertaining, but felt like a mishmash of highlights of incidents in the books. 3 stars
11/17/03 gioconda alberi aw c'mon guys this is pretty great compared to the malarkey that's been released this year 4 stars
11/17/03 Alonzo P. Tucker i thought it was "Masturbating Commander", but nun the less enjoyed it. 5 stars
11/17/03 Elizaveta lots of fun! strong cast, plain good entertainment 5 stars
11/16/03 Lord Jiggy Lacked something...but still fairly compelling 4 stars
11/16/03 paganchyk High action and subtle character interplay - gorgeous 5 stars
11/16/03 Margaret Zumas Naval history with heart 4 stars
11/16/03 Bitty Art film meets documentary 4 stars
11/16/03 Ryan Beautiful, sometimes exciting, nice detail... 4 stars
11/16/03 malcolm a guy movie in the caliber of 'Shane' 5 stars
11/15/03 Aaron Shore Just like being there in 1805 4 stars
11/15/03 Cameron Slick An extremely realistic, high seas adventure. 4 stars
11/15/03 Rikyrah Snow I don't usually watch Russell Crow movies. But, I LOVED this one. 5 stars
11/14/03 RLBucko very solid but for an O'Brien reader the plot is drawn from several books - causing literar 4 stars
11/14/03 Farker it's not a "massive galleon", Scott!!! 5 stars
11/14/03 Zengator very true to the books = great action + characters 5 stars
IF YOU'VE SEEN THIS FILM, RATE IT!
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USA
  14-Nov-2003 (PG-13)
  DVD: 20-Apr-2004

UK
  N/A

Australia
  04-Dec-2003


Directed by
  Peter Weir

Written by
  Peter Weir
  John Collee

Cast
  Russell Crowe
  Paul Bettany
  Billy Boyd
  James d'Arcy
  Lee Ingleby
  George Innes



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