In April 1805 during the Napoleonic Wars, the 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 ... Written by
A 50-gun HMS Surprise was at the shelling of Fort McHenry in September 1814. This was the famous bombardment that resulted in Francis Scott Key writing "The Defence of Fort McHenry" later to become "The Star Spangled Banner". See more »
The Acheron makes repeated efforts to attack and destroy the Surprise. No privateer, regardless of the strength of the ship, would normally attack a warship. A privateer was a privately owned and operated vessel out to capture enemy merchant ships for their cargoes and for profit. Engaging an enemy warship was neither profitable nor safe. The Acheron's efforts appear to be a holdover from the book, when she would have been an American warship, which would willingly engage a smaller British warship. See more »
Few films manage to capture the era in which the original work was set and often rely on clichés 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 This film manages to avoid these pitfalls but more importantly serves as a worthwhile historical document.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.
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