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9 reviews, 128 user ratings

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Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World
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by Robert Flaxman

"Spectacular if a bit overstuffed."
4 stars

Master and Commander is director Peter Weir's first film in five years, his last being 1998's The Truman Show. His latest certainly has the look of a film that would require years to complete. With three studios (20th Century Fox, Miramax, and Universal) on board and a reported budget of $135 million, Master and Commander supposedly only took three months to shoot, but the entire project took three years, and the construction of the ships alone took months.

It is on this level of spectacle that the film is most successful. The attention to detail on the ship is astonishing, and credibly places the viewer at sea in 1805 with a minimum of CGI. The opening attack on the British frigate Surprise is cringe-inducingly realistic, with the shrieking of cannonballs through the air and the splintering of wood putting the audience squarely in the middle of the action.

Don't expect to go to Master and Commander just for the action, though - between the opening cannon strike and the final battle between the Surprise and its enemy, the French frigate Acheron, there is quite a bit else to be concerned with, including other trials of the Surprise, such as sailing through a typhoon near Cape Horn, and the interactions of the men aboard the ship.

Jack Aubrey (Russell Crowe) is captain of the Surprise, and Stephen Maturin (Paul Bettany) is the ship's doctor. The two are close friends, but they clash frequently on this particular trip, wih Maturin questioning Aubrey's motivations in continuing after the Acheron despite having been crippled by the superior ship in their first meeting. Maturin is also a naturalist whose interest is piqued by the Galapagos Islands, though his desire to study them is several times frustrated by Aubrey's sense of duty.

Taking the first half of its title from the entire 20-volume series of Patrick O'Brian novels, The Far Side of the World is actually the tenth in the set. It was chosen to provide this film's main narrative due mostly to the more dramatic nature of it - a crippled Surprise pursuing a superior enemy - and also because Weir wanted the film to take place almost entirely at sea.

Nevertheless, the film combines aspects from several of the Master and Commander novels, and the result feels a bit overstuffed. In that sense it is a perfect tribute to O'Brian, who crammed as much as he possibly could into every novel, but it feels a bit bloated onscreen, with more subplots than are really necessary and the feeling that Weir (who also co-wrote the screenplay) didn't want to cut anything from the novel he didn't absolutely have to. The film ends up 138 minutes long as a result, and sometimes drags a bit - to stay true to the novels' intentions (O'Brian referred to them as "Aubrey/Maturin novels"), Weir refuses to shorten Maturin's naturalist trek around the Galapagos, even though it ends up accomplishing very little except giving Aubrey an idea of how to take on the Acheron. The "science informs warfare" message is cute, but it could have been done in less time. Other seemingly extraneous scenes, such as various surgeries performed by Maturin, can be more acceptably dismissed as "period color."

Fortunately, the focus on various characters is not wasted by a good cast, led by Crowe and Bettany as perfect foils. Crowe's Aubrey is not an unsophisticated man - he even plays the violin - but he is driven more by instinct on board the ship than is the coolly logical Maturin, played wonderfully by Bettany. The cast is filled out by mostly unknown - at least in America - British actors, including some surprisingly good performances from several adolescent newcomers as midshipmen. (A surprising, but accurate, period recreation is that boys as young as 12 or 13 often served in important capacities on board ships, even those in the Royal Navy as the Surprise is.)

With the combination of solid spectacle, period detail, and good acting, Master and Commander is certainly a worthwhile expenditure of time, even at well over two hours. It tries to cram in a bit more than it should, but the main plot is solid and the characters mostly work.

It may not be the best movie of the year, but Master and Commander is at least one of the most entertaining.

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=8323&reviewer=385
originally posted: 10/11/04 03:45:59
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User Comments

4/02/18 John Olson Have watched this film at least 6 times 5 stars
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 I’ve never managed to stay awake through it. 3 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
5/03/06 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. Galápagos 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
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  14-Nov-2003 (PG-13)
  DVD: 20-Apr-2004



Directed by
  Peter Weir

Written by
  Peter Weir
  John Collee

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

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