During the Napoleonic Wars, a brash British captain pushes his ship and crew to their limits in pursuit of a formidable French war vessel around South America.
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.
April 1805, the British Admiralty orders brilliant sailor captain 'Lucky' Jack Aubrey's frigate, HMS Surprise, to hunt down the French privateer Acheron sailing to South America. Although it proves a worthy adversary, he outsmarts the Napoleonic foe, who also resorts to a last hide and deceit trick. So his able lessons to young officers and midshipmen are combined with the Royal navy's school of hard knocks. One lieutenant struggling to assert authority causes a impudent sailor to be flogged on captain's orders but incurs the jinx status of 'Jonah' with fatal result. Cultivated Aubrey's best friend aboard is ship surgeon Stephen Maturin, whose true passion biology is hard to accommodate as the needs or war keep taking precedence, despite two passages at the mysterious Galapagos archipelago and the best efforts of their common favorite, bright and able midshipman Blakeney.
During the Napoleonic Wars, a British frigate, HMS Surprise, and a much larger French warship, the Acheron, with greater fire power, stalk each other off of the coast of South America. Russell Crowe brings great intensity to the role of Captain Jack Aubrey. Lucky Jack, as he is referred to by his crew, is well regarded by his men, who trust him implicitly, even after the first devastating battle and an apparent personal vendetta against the French captain. While the naval battle sequences are quite fantastic, the film is successful because director Weir chose to build the story to get to know the men who are locked aboard the tight quarters of a small ship and how they interact everyday. The officers and the mates are well-known by the time the final battle comes. Paul Bettany offers a strong performance as the surgeon and naturalist who balances the violence of his chosen life with the quiet demeanor of the scientist. He is the captain's friend and confidant, the two frequently playing violin and cello duets together. The horrors of the injuries from the war are frequently implied, but vividly depicted in the reactions of the characters.
The year is 1805. Europe has fallen to Napoleon, and only the Royal Navy stands in his way to total victory. Off the cost of South America, a new conflict is brewing. Captain Jack "Lucky Jack" Aubrey of the Man-of-War HMS Surprise is under orders to sink or capture the French privateer Acheron, which has been deployed to the region. After seven weeks of uneventful sailing, the Acheron strikes first, all but crippling the Surprise in an engagement in which Aubrey realizes his enemy's ship is nautically superior to his own. Along with his close friend and confidant Stephan Maturin who also happens to be the ship's surgeon, Aubrey is now faced with the choice of retreating to England and admitting defeat or remaining at the Acheron's mercy. Aubrey must now do the impossible if he is to survive, repair his ship, catch up to his enemy and defeat the Acheron--somehow.
- The film takes place in 1805, during the Napoleonic Wars. Captain Aubrey of the British man-of-war HMS Surprise is ordered to pursue the French privateer Acheron and "burn, sink or take her a prize." As the film opens, Surprise midshipman Hollom briefly spies a dark shape in a fog bank. After some hesitation, the call to beat to quarters is given. Aubrey and the other officers at first see nothing, but the Surprise soon comes under attack by the Acheron. The British warship is heavily damaged and its rudder destroyed, while its own shots fail to penetrate the Acheron's hull. The crew tows the Surprise into the fog, where it evades its pursuer.
Aubrey learns from a crewman who saw the Acheron built in America that due to a cutting-edge design, the privateer is heavier and faster than the Surprise. The senior officers consider the ship out of their class, and such a ship could tip the balance of power in Napoleon's favor. Rather than return to port, Aubrey orders a refit at sea while they pursue the Acheron. The Acheron once again ambushes the Surprise, but by using a decoy the ship manages to escape in the night.
Following the privateer south, the Surprise rounds Cape Horn. In the high winds the topmast breaks, throwing a popular crewman into the water. Aubrey is forced to leave the man to his fate, lest the wreck sink the Surprise. The ship heads to the Galapagos Islands, where Aubrey is sure the Acheron will want to prey on Britain's whaling fleet. The ship's doctor, Maturin, is interested in the isle for the strange creatures claimed to reside on the isles. Aubrey promises his friend that he will have several days to explore the islands.
When Surprise reaches the Galapagos they recover the survivors of the whaling ship Albatross, destroyed by the Acheron. Realizing the ship is close, Aubrey hastily pursues the privateer, ordering a departure from the Galapagos. Maturin feels that Aubrey is going back on his word, and is following the Acheron more out of pride than duty. During their pursuit, the Surprise is becalmed. The heat and lack of water lead the crew to believe there is a Jonah aboard someone who is bringing the ship bad luck. Hollom is singled out as the source of the bad luck, and his popularity with the crew plummets; the ship's carpenter's mate openly insults Hollom by failing to salute, and is condemned to a flogging. It is revealed in a deleted scene that the crew's sympathies lie with the carpenter and not Hollom, who later commits suicide by jumping into the ocean clutching a cannon ball. After a memorial service for Hollom, the wind picks up, followed by a downpour of rain, and the pursuit continues.
One of the ship's Marines, attempting to bring down an albatross, accidentally shoots Maturin, who quickly loses consciousness. The surgeon's mate informs Aubrey that the bullet dragged a piece of the doctor's shirt inside his abdomen and must be removed or it will cause a deadly infection. The surgeon's mate states that the operation should be performed on solid ground. Despite closing in on the Acheron, Aubrey turns around and takes the doctor back to the Galapagos. Maturin performs surgery on himself using a mirror and removes the bullet and piece of shirt.
Having relented his pursuit of the Acheron, Aubrey grants Maturin the chance to explore the island before they head for home. On crossing the island looking for a species of flightless cormorant, the doctor discovers the Acheron, anchored in a bay on the island's opposite side. Abandoning his specimens to make it back quickly, Maturin warns Aubrey, and the Surprise readies for battle. Due to the Acheron's sturdy hull, the Surprise must get in close to deal damage. After observing the deceptive qualities of one of Maturin's specimens a stick insect Aubrey has the idea to disguise Surprise as a whaling ship, assuming the French, in their greed, would close to capture the ship rather than destroy it outright. The French take the bait and the Surprise pulls alongside the frigate, destroying her mainmast. Aubrey and Pullings lead boarding parties across the wreckage. With the help of whalers freed from the Acheron's brig, the French ship is taken. Looking for the French captain, Aubrey is directed to the sickbay, where the French doctor tells him his captain is dead. The doctor offers Aubrey the captain's sword.
The Acheron and Surprise are repaired. While the Surprise will remain in the Galapagos, Pullings is promoted to Captain and charged with sailing the captured ship to Valparaiso. As the Acheron sails away, Maturin mentions that a French crewman had told him that their doctor had died months ago. Realizing the Acheron's captain tricked him by dressing as the doctor, Aubrey gives the order to beat to quarters and escort the Acheron to Valparaiso. Maturin is again denied the chance to explore the Galapagos. Aubrey wryly notes that since the bird Maturin seeks is flightless, "it's not going anywhere", and the two begin to play Luigi Boccherini's "La Musica Notturna Delle Strade Di Madrid No. 6, Op. 30" on cello and violin as the crew assumes battle stations.