Andrew Garfield, Mahershala Ali, Ruth Negga, and five others received their first-ever acting nominations for 2017. While these actors are new to the Academy Awards, you may recognize them from their earlier work.
In April 1805 during the Napoleonic Wars, H.M.S. Surprise, a British frigate, is under the command of Captain Jack Aubrey. Aubrey and the Surprise's current orders are to track and capture or destroy a French privateer named Acheron. The Acheron is currently in the Atlantic off South America headed toward the Pacific in order to extend Napoleon's reach of the wars. This task will be a difficult one as Aubrey quickly learns in an initial battle with the Acheron that it is a bigger and faster ship than the Surprise, which puts the Surprise at a disadvantage. Aubrey's single-mindedness in this seemingly impossible pursuit puts him at odds with the Surprise's doctor and naturalist, Stephen Maturin, who is also Aubrey's most trusted advisor on board and closest friend. Facing other internal obstacles which have resulted in what they consider a string of bad luck, Aubrey ultimately uses Maturin's scientific exploits to figure out a way to achieve his and the ship's seemingly impossible goal. Written by
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 clichés, 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.
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