Movie Review
Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World
Master & Commander poster
By Gareth Von Kallenbach     Published November 29, 2003
US Release: November 14, 2003

Directed by: Peter Weir
Starring: Russell Crowe , Richard Stroh , Paul Bettany , Billy Boyd

Running Time: 139 minutes
Domestic Box Office: $93,926,386
One of the best films of the year and a likely Oscar contender.
In 1805, control of the seas was key to the wealth and power of a nation. With rich trade routes and colonies at stake, France and England found themselves locked in a bloody war for control of Europe and the high seas. On board the HMS Surprise, Captain Jack Aubrey (Russell Crowe) and his crew patrol the waters of Brazil in an effort to keep the French cruiser Acheron from the area.

The Acheron comes upon the Surprise and unleashes a devastating attack that leaves the Surprise damaged and adrift with several of the crew injured and dead in the process. Aubrey is surprised that the Acheron seemed to know exactly where and when his ship would be and voices to his senior staff that he is concerned that there may be an information leak in their command structure back home.

Despite this concern, Aubrey decides to peruse the Acheron rather than return to port knowing he is vastly outgunned and out-manned by his opponent. In the ensuing story, Aubrey plays a deadly game of cat and mouse with the Acheron, and confronts all manners of danger ranging from the weather to doubts amongst his crew regarding their mission.

Visually the film is stunning, as director Peter Weir has paid very close attention to detail, making the look and feel of the film very authentic; the action sequences are intense and are easily the best depiction of ancient naval engagements ever committed to film. Viewers will feel as if they are a part of the crew, as cannon shells and carnage erupt in a symphony of violence and sound that show the true ferocity of the engagements. I was also impressed with the detail given to the ships? pattern of maneuvers during combat, as the ship battles stayed consistent with naval strategies of the time.

The supporting cast is solid, as even minor players are given scenes that help establish them as individuals rather than scruffy masses on the ship. Paul Bettany is outstanding as DR. Maturin, the ship?s doctor and friend to Captain Aubrey. Maturin is very loyal to the captain, but would rather study specimens on the tropical islands rather than peruse the Acheron that he confesses may be a quest to satisfy the ego of the captain.

Aside from Weir, what really powers the film is the strong Oscar worthy performance by Crowe; his portrayal of Aubrey is dynamic and captivating, and commands your attention. Crowe shows once again that he is one of the top actors alive and can power a film to dynamic heights. Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World is one of the best films of the year and a likely Oscar contender, and not to be missed.
Gareth's Grade: B+
Gareth's Overall Grading: 50 graded movies
Share, Bookmark
'Master & Commander' Articles
  • Stephen's review A-
    November 29, 2003    The direction, acting, and cinematography are, in their own ways, excellent. -- Stephen Lucas
  • Friday Box Office Analysis (11/14)
    November 15, 2003    With Elf having a chance to claim the top spot after its second-place finish last week, there is a chance that Fox may possibly over-estimate Master & Commander?s weekend performance if the race is indeed close. -- Lee Tistaert