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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
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by Scott Weinberg

"Sags in the middle, but still one helluva boat ride."
4 stars

So what we have here is a big, sweeping and majestic "adventure drama", one that's made for grown-ups who enjoy subplots and character development. Which also means that it's not in any way the mega-kinetic action extravaganza that the commercials are promising, and if you're under the age of say, 15, you'll probably be bored stiff by Act III. But let's not fault a handsome and generally compelling film for a misleading ad campaign; "Master and Commander" is, as the blurbmeisters are already exclaiming, an adventure yarn for adults...and a pretty darn good one, too.

"It's Gladiator on the high seas!" exclaim the television ads, cleverly noting that the same actor appeared in both films. Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World may be many things (gorgeous to look at, technically astonishing, belabored with a few too many aimless subplots, source of two staggeringly nifty high-seas battle sequences), but Gladiator it is not. Whether or not that's a good thing is up to you, but be prepared for a whole lotta plot divergences and background-character-development and moody looks at the nighttime sky, because this one (like many of director Peter Weir's babies) takes its time getting to its destination.

But hey, if you're having a good time with it (and most moviegoers probably will), who cares if the thing seems to overstay its welcome just a little bit? To be fair, it's not every day we get a movie like this.

The year is 1805 and Captain Jack Aubrey (Crowe) is charged with defending England from marauding French warships. His massive galleon, the Surprise, is populated with the sort of chaps you'd expect to find aboard a English galleon, circa 1800: surly old seadogs and devoted officers, youthful first-mates and gung-ho soldiers. A manly bunch, to be sure.

After the Surprise is ambushed and left crippled (following an amazing firefight) by a mysterious French frigate called The Acheron, Capt. Aubrey has one thing on his mind: revenge! Well, not revenge actually, but Justice! British war heroes who partake in petty vengeance are not at all gentlemanly. But justice and defense of the crown (and the fact that there's currently a war going on, of course) is what sets Aubrey's sails, and he begins a repair operation / return asskicking campaign that tests the mettle of all aboard his ship.

And during several intermittent moments of the film, it's the audience's mettle that is also tested, quite simply because Master and Commander has two astonishingly impressive battle-scene bookends...and a heaping helping of potentially yawn-worthy chit-chat in between. And when your movie's about 140 minutes long, a few too many dry spots can really start to grate on the viewer.

For every winning moment of interplay between Aubrey and ship's surgeon Stephen Maturin (Paul Bettany), there's another sequence or subplot that seems wedged in rather haphazardly. A side-story involving a "cursed" officer ends precisely how we expect it to, and it takes too long to get there. A stopover at the Galapagos Islands begins in fascinating style...but the film stops dead when we spend way too much time admiring the flora.

Clearly the cornucopia of extra plot threads comes from the fact that Master and Commander is based on several books, instead of just one. Patrick O'Brian's literary source material is a well-admired collection, and it seems that Weir and co-screenwriter John Collee tried to wedge in as many familiar touchstones as possible. Whether or not this approach will please fans of the novels remains to be seen, but much of Master and Commander feels like a "greatest hits" compilation of barely-connected sea stories.

On the other hand, there's simply too much to admire about Master and Commander to knock it so casually. The look of the tall ships and the meticulous attention paid to period detail are undeniably effective, and it's quite easy to just sit back and enjoy the film as the refined spectacle it clearly is. Crowe brings the swagger and sensitivity he's displayed elsewhere, delivering a fine performance - if not one that will be remembered as among his most nuanced. Better still is Paul Bettany (as Aubrey's doctor and lifelong friend) who deftly portrays a man of science both brave and bookish at the same time.

The battle sequences that open and close the film (and they're generous ones indeed) easily make the movie worthy of high praise and moviegoer attention. If the "plot stuff" slows down to a crawl here and there, just enjoy the scenery and wait for the next cannonball.

link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=8323&reviewer=128
originally posted: 11/14/03 17:02:09
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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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