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Overall Rating
4.11

Awesome45.86%
Worth A Look: 34.81%
Average: 8.29%
Pretty Bad: 6.63%
Total Crap: 4.42%

9 reviews, 127 user ratings


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Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World
[AllPosters.com] Buy posters from this movie
by Stephen Groenewegen

"Classical Flourishes"
5 stars

Once upon a time, making an epic movie at sea seemed the surest sign of an insane director, or insanely profligate studio. The phenomenal success of Titanic changed all that. Still, the major Hollywood studios haven’t exactly been rushing each other back into the water with competing nautical blockbusters. So executives at Twentieth Century Fox must have been wet with excitement at the coincidence of this year’s two biggest hits - Finding Nemo and Pirates of the Caribbean - being set on or in the ocean. For Fox, along with Universal and Miramax, has sunk a lot of money into Peter Weir’s Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World.

Weir and doctor turned novelist John Collee collaborated on the screenplay, based on Patrick O’Brian’s celebrated novels featuring Captain “Lucky” Jack Aubrey and his ship’s doctor, Stephen Maturin. The film is as much a literary adaptation and painstakingly detailed historical recreation, as it is action adventure. There are 20 Aubrey/Maturin Master and Commander books, and The Far Side of the World takes its narrative cues from the tenth.

It is 1805 and the Napoleonic Wars between England and France have transformed oceans into “battlefields”. The HMS Surprise, captained by Aubrey (Russell Crowe), waits off the coast of Brazil with orders to intercept and disable the French vessel Acheron. But it is the phantom French privateer that ambushes the Surprise from behind bluish-grey dawn mist. Aubrey becomes obsessed with avenging the attack and capturing the Acheron, despite an exhausted crew and the misgivings of Maturin (Paul Bettany), his confidante, sparring partner and closest friend.

Peter Weir’s films have frequently revolved around enclosed communities, from the Amish village in Witness to the artificial confines of The Truman Show to the single-sex schools of Picnic at Hanging Rock and Dead Poets Society. Master and Commander is no exception. Weir and his team revel in exhibiting the “little wooden world” of the HMS Surprise in all its period detail. Collee and Weir integrate their prodigious research with the action, so you absorb it as the film rolls along. The depth of historical detail means we’re seeing a traditional adventure story through new eyes.

The interplay of Aubrey and Maturin is one of the film’s strengths. Aubrey is the man of action who thrives on conflict, but is always aware of his responsibilities as captain. Maturin is a naturalist and medical doctor, with a marked distaste for violence. He personifies Aubrey’s conscience. Both are keen students of human nature and stand apart from the rest of the crew - Maturin by station and choice, Aubrey by duty and necessity. Their conflict spells out the story’s themes of tyranny and the corruption of power.

Crowe learnt to sail for the role and conveys the authority of a leader of men. He’s also refreshingly human in the part. A look of intense sexual longing at a Brazilian girl, which he reluctantly breaks, speaks volumes about the loneliness of command. There’s also a roguish playfulness to his Aubrey. A scene of Crowe standing atop the mast - 137 feet above the ocean - is awesome.

Bettany makes the resigned and equally stubborn Maturin likeable. The actors previously worked together on A Beautiful Mind and have a solid on-screen rapport. Their characters’ friendship is exemplified in spirited musical duets, with Maturin on cello and Aubrey on violin. Crowe studied the instrument until his rendition of pieces by Bach and Mozart looked sufficiently convincing.

An experienced Shakespearean cast lends gravity to the supporting roles. 13-year old Max Pirkis is also noteworthy as a junior midshipman. Unlike so many pompous historical epics (Gladiator, anyone?), the dialogue is colloquial and delivered naturally rather than declaimed. If anything, lines are sometimes thrown away too casually. Until you acclimatise, you have to concentrate to keep up with exactly what’s going on.

The scenes of naval warfare are realistic and thrilling in their immediacy. The accomplished work of cinematographer Russell Boyd and the art, design, sound and visual effects departments add to the feeling of being transported somewhere new. Literally, in the case of an episode set on the Galapagos Islands. Master and Commander is - surprisingly - the first feature ever granted permission to film there. The photography in this sequence is breathtakingly beautiful.

I wouldn’t have missed the loss of a drawn-out and clichéd subplot about a gnarly old doomsayer amongst the crew and a weak-willed officer. But the sequence does allow Weir a suitably atmospheric and nightmarish view of below-decks from the officer’s perspective. We’re also given a feeling for the cycle of a life at sea in Lord Nelson’s navy - the interaction of crewmen with their superiors, and the natural progression from unexpected death to unexpected promotion.

Not having read any of the novels, I can’t speak for the loyal O’Brian readership, reputedly as picky and defensive about thoughtless liberties as any Tolkien or comics fan. But as a stand-alone entertainment, Master and Commander is enthralling and engrossing; classical storytelling with satisfying adventure novel flourishes.

link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=8323&reviewer=104
originally posted: 11/19/03 13:27:25
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User Comments

9/13/17 morris campbell good needs 2 be shorter tho 4 stars
5/02/14 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
6/25/09 Dan One of the best movies I've ever seen. If you enjoy history, this film is for you . 5 stars
1/10/09 Anonymous. i don't usually watch this sort of thing, but i actually enjoyed this. 4 stars
12/02/08 Chris Stunningly well-made modern classic, gripping intellectual drama 5 stars
11/03/08 Shaun Wallner Well made. 5 stars
9/26/08 Annie G My guys love this film, but I’ve never managed to stay awake through it. 3 stars
5/21/08 PAUL SHORTT THIS EPIC ADVENTURE STEERS A TRUE COURSE THROUGH STORM AND SACRIFICE AND ARRIVES TRIUMPHANT 5 stars
11/21/07 G. Webster loved it! visually beautiful.great acting by russell crowe 5 stars
9/25/07 Joe Kacmarynski One of the BEST films I have ever seen. A real Swashbuckler, but yet poignant. 5 stars
7/08/07 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
3/11/07 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
1/02/07 MO very gripping and exciting. good characters mostly. 5 stars
9/28/06 BadBoy Fantastic scenery and massive sets,a lot of wrk has gone into this film.Russle Crow ws GR8! 5 stars
9/13/06 Bitchflaps Exciting, but dumb. Would have benefitted from the omission of its talkier segments. 4 stars
8/22/06 jeanne You've got to love a man who can perform abdominal surgery on himself! Bravo! 5 stars
6/25/06 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
5/21/06 Kcaj ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 1 stars
5/03/06 R.W.Welch Runs on a bit but well captures the era of wooden ships and iron men. 4 stars
2/26/06 Quigley the movie is a bore most of the time, with really choppy confused action. russell was great 2 stars
1/08/06 gerry dunne best movie of this decade so far (jan 20060 5 stars
11/26/05 Joe Z Its not just an adventure film for adults its incredible for everyone my second favorite mo 5 stars
11/21/05 tatum The best seafaring movie ever 5 stars
11/11/05 Bob Paddington 4 stars
11/06/05 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
9/19/05 Jonathon Holmes zzzzzzzzz 2 stars
8/19/05 ES lesser of two weevils = priceless 3 stars
6/17/05 Hasanin Abdelsamad an excellent film,i almost lived among the details 5 stars
5/24/05 Nathan Westfall one of the greatest movies I have ever seen 5 stars
5/07/05 smitty A truly breathtaking film, but bloody beastly trying to decipher what the hell's being said 4 stars
4/25/05 Quigley this awful movie screams "STYLE OVER SUBSTANCE!" Even Russsell Crowe can't save this oyster 1 stars
4/04/05 Ric A thrilling journey, this is a sweeping adventure that matches the best of naval cinema. 5 stars
2/17/05 kathleen4691 Good film, but don't expect the book. 4 stars
1/29/05 Don GREAT! 5 stars
1/22/05 Tjalda L. Schiel Terrific rendition of O'Brien's work. 5 stars
11/17/04 Danish Cookie Two thumbs way down. Crowe worst movie 1 stars
11/12/04 anti - russell crowe this movie should be banned!!! It gave me a panic attack from the gory scenes! terrible! 1 stars
11/01/04 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
9/12/04 Dan Wtf? Pwnt. 5 stars
8/14/04 Daveman Terrific fun. Paul Bettany is outstanding, Crowe is pretty damn great too. 4 stars
8/09/04 Ron Good but the novels by Patrick O'Brian are even better. 4 stars
7/30/04 DJ Wtf? Pwnt. 5 stars
7/30/04 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
7/20/04 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
7/01/04 Mikey Crunt But the books had gay sex scenes. Where were they?? 3 stars
6/23/04 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
6/19/04 Denise Duspiva good but i would have liked a little more story 4 stars
6/08/04 Ron Miller Good.... but Best movie nominee... don't think so! 3 stars
6/07/04 Caroline LOVED the music, scenery, and acting- will definitely buy DVD 5 stars
6/04/04 Gregmond Liked it :) 5 stars
6/03/04 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
5/29/04 Irene fantastic and wonderfully historical 5 stars
4/29/04 Taylor Fladgate Grandiose scenery, thin plot & script. 3 stars
4/24/04 Shams Huque Good looking film - overrated though. 4 stars
4/20/04 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
3/09/04 holly awesome! 5 stars
3/06/04 Goofy Maxwell Refreshing adventure, driven more by curiosity than character. 4 stars
2/10/04 Jenny Tullwartz Another super-hyped "What's all the fuss about" film. Galápagos scenes only intresting part 3 stars
2/03/04 Alexia Katz Thin on plot, yet so compelling that it is impossible to look away 5 stars
1/20/04 Suzi Mitchell loved every minute 5 stars
1/11/04 Angela The film's exciting indeed, but not deep enough...another typical hollywood piece?! 3 stars
1/06/04 Chris Alittle too long and not enough plotlines but still very good. Crowe is oscar worthy. 4 stars
1/03/04 Tony Mazzeo Read the books Movie works 4 stars
1/02/04 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
12/29/03 Michael Strauss Re: "Master and Commander/ The Far Side of the World" I cannot take it any longer. How can 1 stars
12/27/03 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
12/26/03 PATRICK Very realistic battles, good story, good soundtrack 5 stars
12/20/03 Martha Cast A fine rendition of some excellent books, although they put too many of them in one movie 5 stars
12/19/03 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
12/12/03 Mike This film was boring and awful in every respect 1 stars
12/11/03 ira crowe undoubtedly, an oscar contender 5 stars
12/05/03 Helen Bradley great photography, poor acting/script 2 stars
12/05/03 katsat Well-made, lotsa action but character development was sacrificed. Not my cuppa tea. 3 stars
12/05/03 Terry Stewart One of the best this year 5 stars
12/04/03 CK Better sea battle sequence than Pirates of the Car..whatever 5 stars
12/04/03 Koitus "Okay." Pity the woman in my row .. she was "tappity, tappity" at "those" two scenes! ;-) 3 stars
12/02/03 moira I thought it was very enjoyable! 4 stars
12/02/03 Dan the Man Really great sea adventure 5 stars
12/01/03 KingNeutron Deserves better reviews. Some grim scenes, but enjoyable anyway. 5 stars
11/30/03 john a sensational adventure movie - 5 stars
11/26/03 Lord Chu Love it. 5 stars
11/26/03 Gi Gi the amputation scene was awesome 5 stars
11/25/03 nancy I loved it! Plenty of character development plus action. 5 stars
11/23/03 Mary I saw 3 awesome seconds, some really fake scenes, the rest was average.. 4 stars
11/22/03 Walton This is a complete piece of trash. 1 stars
11/22/03 Fitz This movie expects more out o f the viewer, then most movies. Enjoyable! 4 stars
11/21/03 Artist Freak Good solid high seas adventure. Not great art, but good fun. 4 stars
11/21/03 homer simpson Great battle scenes, other wise it sucked 3 stars
11/21/03 horndog huh? oh I just woke up after my nap during this turd! 1 stars
11/21/03 Andrew The name is enough - I refuse to pay money to see this turd baby! 5 stars
11/20/03 Brian Lutz Most overrated film of 2003...or ever 2 stars
11/20/03 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
11/19/03 john excellent , fun, sound fine 5 stars
11/19/03 Johnny's Been Rotten I saw it. I loved it. 5 stars
11/19/03 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
11/18/03 gioconda alberi aw c'mon guys this is pretty great compared to the malarkey that's been released this year 4 stars
11/18/03 Alonzo P. Tucker i thought it was "Masturbating Commander", but nun the less enjoyed it. 5 stars
11/18/03 Elizaveta lots of fun! strong cast, plain good entertainment 5 stars
11/17/03 Lord Jiggy Lacked something...but still fairly compelling 4 stars
11/17/03 paganchyk High action and subtle character interplay - gorgeous 5 stars
11/17/03 Margaret Zumas Naval history with heart 4 stars
11/17/03 Bitty Art film meets documentary 4 stars
11/17/03 Ryan Beautiful, sometimes exciting, nice detail... 4 stars
11/17/03 malcolm a guy movie in the caliber of 'Shane' 5 stars
11/16/03 Aaron Shore Just like being there in 1805 4 stars
11/16/03 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
11/15/03 RLBucko very solid but for an O'Brien reader the plot is drawn from several books - causing literar 4 stars
11/15/03 Farker it's not a "massive galleon", Scott!!! 5 stars
11/15/03 Zengator very true to the books = great action + characters 5 stars
IF YOU'VE SEEN THIS FILM, RATE IT!
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USA
  14-Nov-2003 (PG-13)
  DVD: 20-Apr-2004

UK
  N/A

Australia
  04-Dec-2003


Directed by
  Peter Weir

Written by
  Peter Weir
  John Collee

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



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