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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importantly serves as a worthwhile historical document.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.
"Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World" is half swashbuckling
action movie, half detailed examination of life in the 19th-century
British navy, and all entertaining. Director Peter Weir has created an
intriguing film that nicely balances fierce battle sequences with
quiet, intimate scenes.
Nearly all of the film takes place aboard the HMS Surprise, under the command of Captain "Lucky" Jack Aubrey (Russell Crowe). The captain's orders: to intercept and disable the French privateer Acheron, which is troubling British vessels off the coast of South America. The two ships clash early on, and the Surprise is thoroughly routed--the Acheron is larger, faster, and more modern. But Aubrey, with a determination that might not entirely be due to his sense of duty, is not one to give up, and the Surprise chases the Acheron--and/or vice versa--down the Brazilian coast, around Cape Horn, and to the Gallapagos Islands.
That's the action part. The intimate part involves Aubrey's relationship with the ship's surgeon, Stephan Marutin (Paul Bettany). Stephan is a quiet intellectual and devout naturallist, whose train of thought is foraying into the territory that would make Darwin a household name later in the century. He's also the only one among the crew who's either willing or able to call Aubrey's decisions into question. He provides a grounding force for the captain, and the friendship between these two dissimilar men is the emotional heart of the story.
I've yet to read any of the Patrick O'Brian series upon which "Master and Commander" is based, but the movie shows every evidence of being derived from a painstakingly and meticulously detailed work, one which has gone to great lengths to re-create the world and environment of these men. The details on screen are wonderful, depicting the sort of harsh conditions that make the contestants on those "reality" series look like the overglorified wimps they are. The crew of the Surprise (many of them not older than twenty) lives in claustrophobic and none-too-clean quarters--at times it seems as if every inch of the screen is crammed full--and sleep in hammocks that may very well end up serving as their shrouds. Battles are chaotic, with cannon fire ripping huge holes in the ship and sending shrapnel in every direction. The weather seems to exist only in extremes: still heat, raging tempests, even snow as they drift down near the Antarctic circle. Good service is rewarded with extra rations of grog and brandy, insubordination is punished by the whip. It's a place where both close friendships and deep resentments can grow, and the tension in the air at times feels like a living presence.
Crowe dominates the production, once again proving himself one of the best leading men working in movies. In his hands, Jack Aubrey is a natural leader of men: clever, courageous, determined, and capable of what nowadays is called "thinking outside the box." He is frequently confronted with difficult choices, but takes his responsibilities and the consequences of his actions unflinchingly. Bettany turns in an equally good performance as Aubrey's emotional and ideological opposite; the two men play wonderfully off of each other. Most of the rest of the crew tends to blur together (the exceptions include a young officer who's right arm gets amputated early on, and later takes command of the ship), but "Lord of the Rings" fans will be amused to notice Billy Boyd among the ranks.
The combination of action and introspection in "Master and Commander" at times seems like an odd mix, but the film succeeds on both levels. Definitely a voyage worth taking.
And surprised I was. After hearing a friend rant endlessly about it, and having nothing to do one Friday night, I rented Master and Commander. The marketing staff should be cackling in glee, that a female in her 20's, would love this movie. It's an amazing movie. Russell Crowe is a force of nature, and all the other actors from Paul Bettany to Billy Boyd give wonderful performances. I especially enjoyed the details of life at sea, though most would call them boring. The day after my 5-day rental, I had to run to the nearest shop and buy the DVD, and have since re-watched it endlessly. I've never seen a more beautifully adapted, filmed and acted movie. Five stars out of five.
See this film NOW at the best, state of the art theater you can find. You'll know why five minutes in.
I didn't want to leave the theater when this roller coaster rhapsody to sea soldiery circa 1805 was over. It's stirring entertainment. No love interests needed. This was what it was really like. One ship, 197 men, 4500 miles from home. Chasing a French ship twice her size. No retreat.
Pirates of the Crappy Be-in was a cute romp, but Master and Commander has real ships, real crews, real cannon,convincing characters, historical accuracy and a REAL film director.
Director/ Peter Weir (Witness) has returned big time and, with this one film, revived classic Australian realism, actually surpassing the production values of Peter Jackson's Ring Trilogy. This is not a fantasy film, but history - painstakingly recreated. And rousing history it is, with plenty of action AND robust character development. The adaptation by Weir and John Colley is right on target, brimming with great characters and scenes.
And Russel Crowe? Other than "The Insider", this is his best role ever. Gladiator was just a warm-up. A Beautiful Mind? Well, nice acting from the neck up. Go see this if you want to see both his athleticism and his formidable acting chops! And he decent musical gifts as well (RC studied violin for the role).
I've always thought Weir was one of our great directors. Now he's been given all the toys Peter Jackson enjoys. And Weir uses them to great effect - recreating a nautical reality that lacks nothing except the need to wipe your face every ten seconds. The cutting of Russel Boyd's fabulous photography is perfect. You get to know every inch of the ship, topside and down below. You also get a strong sense of the social dynamics on board - how men got along with each other for so many months. I felt swept along in a perfect mix of virile action and characters I could get to know and care for. One thing I loved was the constant caring between many of the men along the rank and file. There's a strong sense of honor and decency in the film. Yet enough grog flows to keep things loose.
This is vigorous stuff and my most thrilling two hours in a theater for a while. Congratulations to everyone involved.
For now, the best director Oscar goes to Peter Weir over Clint Eastwood (Mystic River)in 2004. Master and Commander is my pick for best picture, just because it is so masterfully realized. A stunning, exhilarating, and - at last - realistic action saga.
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
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.
A very complete tale, interwoven with beautiful cinematography, powerful performances (Russel Crowe, especially), masterful score (Bach, Motzart...to name two),and a truly believable storyline with many twists. At the heart of which is the conflict inside Capt. "Lucky" Jack Aubry (Russel Crowe) who balances his duty to the British Empire and his personal relationships with friends and crew members on board the HMS Surprise. All this while playing cat and mouse with a french enemy vessel that is twice his ship's size and double her strength. The conclusion is a great blending of commonality of human cause and duty. All in all, this is one of the most well rounded stories I've ever seen on the motion picture screen.
Peter Weir has directed a bunch of will-be-Oscar-nominated movies. For
me, this is not a merit for a filmmaker, since Oscar-dramas are usually
95% of entertainment, which by itself isn't interesting. His style is
very compromising and clean, you are not surprised by originality, but
you can enjoy the professional touch he has in his work.
Another Australian, Russell Crowe is also a professional, but has some weak points in his acting, mainly caused by certain machismo he desperately tries to maintain in all his characters.
Rest of the cast was unfamiliar to me and I had not read any Patrick O'Brian books. But the sea itself, tall ships and the Napoleonic Wars are of course great elements to base the story on, especially for a amateur war historian and summertime sailor like me.
I was surprised, how truly good Master and Commander was. A true adventure! I enjoyed the whole film and could not find anything I wouldn't like. Things were different in back then and Master and Commander presents its version of the Napoleonic Era. It looks very rich and detailed. Undoubtedly O'Brian novels form a fine background for the excellent screenplay. Soundtrack is very well done too, and musical scenes with Aubrey and Maturin playing duet with violin and cello ties their friendship. One of the best things in Master and Commander is the heartwarming friendship between these two characters.
It's like Weir and Crowe were born and trained to do this movie. And obviously I have born to watch it, since I've seen it five times so far. A perfect jewel of its kind. Oh, how I wish they'd make a dozen of sequels, especially since the end was sort of open and had a sense of continuation. If I had watched this movie when I was 12 I probably would have had a career in the navy...
I have to start by saying that I have read one or two Patrick O'Brien
novels. Mostly on planes, and they were great! This film blows away any
expectation that I had for an interpretation of his novels. The amazing
attention to detail and the tremendous acting were on par with, if not
in great excess of Donaldson's "The Bounty", where Mel Gibson and Tony
Hopkins gave mind altering performances. In this film, however, we are
not lost in the great period work (which was off the charts amazing),
we are also drawn into the characters. Developed with real life flaws
and strengths, even our couragous leader, Jack Aubrey, drinks a bit too
much, is tough on his crew and (maybe) makes a few desicions that may
have not been the best possible at the time. What we have is a real
life and incredibly insightful look into a very exciting and important
time in the history of the world.
Written as a battle between the British "Surprise" a relatively modest ship and the American "Aceron", changed for American audiences to a French ship. I am sure that after 911 most Americans would rather watch Aubrey crush the life out of a large and powerful French frigate than an American one. In any event, the battle scenes are amazing, the attention to detail, flawless, and the acting....superb. I have never liked Russell Crowe, but every movie I have ever seen him in I find myself saying, "that guy is an amazing actor". In my humble opinion, this is his greatest achievement. The supporting actors, right down to the inexperienced young actors, playing the teen midshipman that truly were part of both the American and British navies for several hundred years.
Heroic...real...beautifully filmed....amazing in every respect.
A MUST SEE, not matter whether you're a 18th century navy buff, or just someone who appreciates a well crafted period film chock full of action, emotion and intelligence
Please see this film
Interestingly, Russell Crowe helps rather than hinders the picture.
It's hard to believe that he's such a jerk when out of character,
because his acting as the captain is totally believable. His character
is great because he's smart, very stern, but very caring of his crew.
While they fear him, they look up to and idolize him too.
The presumably accurate historical details really piqued my interest, from the little 12 and 13-year-old kids on the crew (and taking part in battle--viciously!), to the intricate chain of command, to the sheer power of the battle scenes. Splintering wood shrapnel, how often have we seen that in movies? Some of my favorite scenes are when Crowe is playing his cello in his quarters. His roomI never would have guessed a ship like that would have such a nice and fancy décor hidden within it. I mean the captain's room resembled a room out of "Clue" (The Study? The Library? I cannot say ) Anyway, the visual details are great. Lots of money was spent on this movie and it was spent on things that really mattered, like recreating interiors and antiques. The guns and cannons look like artifacts to the modern viewer, but they're also well-kept and shiny.
The dialog is fantastic, too I can't remember exact quotes, but when Crowe gave some of his powerful, rallying speeches to the crew, I was ready to climb the mast myself.
This movie is an incredible addition to the action/adventure/historical genre. It's also very much a man's movie. I'm not sure there's a chick in the whole thing.
My summary quote is from a scene where the captain (Crowe) makes a joke at
the expense of his good friend and physician (Bettany). It is indicative of
the fine humor sprinkled into an otherwise serious movie.
Many commentors said this movie is dull or boring. They must have wanted an event-driven, action-oriented movie, which this is not. There really are only two, rather brief, battle scenes. Instead, this is very much a character-driven movie. The approach the captain takes to his mission, extending it beyond his orders, to try and do his part to thwart the French power play in the waters near Brazil in 1805. His good friend, the doctor, wanting to study insects, birds, reptiles and other creatures on the shore of strange lands, including the Galapagos, but being disappointed by demands of the mission. Young boys literally growing up on the ship to become effective military leaders. The claustrophobic conditions on the ship, enduring rough seas that almost destroy their temporary home, or lack of rain that makes them wonder if they will die of thirst.
Overall a fine movie. The critic Ebert has a good and complete review. The DVD is good, with a very nice picture and both DTS and Dolby sound, but no extras relating to the movie.
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