Review: ‘Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World’ (2003)
Remember this one? Master and Commander is just one of the many war epics that came out in the early 2000’s, think Gladiator, The Patriot, The Last Samurai and so on. These were the movies that got me, an eleven-year-old brat, hooked to cinema. Let’s see how it holds up now that I’m…uhm…an older brat.
Master and What?
It’s 1805 and Napoleon has been on a successful warpath through Europe. Standing in his way to England however, is the British Royal Navy. Russel Crowe is Captain “Lucky” Jack Aubrey of the H.M.S Surprise, a British frigate. His mission? To capture or destroy the French privateer named Acheron, a ship that is bigger, faster and stronger. Leading to a good ol’ cat-and-mouse game.
All hands on deck
Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World is a big budget blockbuster and they like to show it off. The visual effects are still better than some of the same budget crap that comes out today, thirteen years later -whaddup Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles-. But it’s their attention to detail that’s most impressive. My high school History teacher was pretty scary so I won’t go as far as to say it’s all historically correct, but it sure as hell feels like it. Costume design, the interior and exterior of the ship, the hierarchy amongst the men, even the way they speak. It all feels authentic and natural, especially because they go over it so casually. At one point there’s a pan shot of the H.M.S. Surprise and for a split second you see someone hanging out the front, taking a dump. Now that is dedication.
The pacing is a bit rough during the second act, specifically due to a side story about one of the crew’s officers. But I wouldn’t call the movie too long. The 138-minute runtime helps writer/director Peter Weir in fleshing out the characters. We’re talking Peter Weir as in Dead Poets Society and The Truman Show by the way, the man knows his characters. Russel Crowe and Paul Bettany work well together as the captain and the doctor of the ship. Crowe does what he does best, commanding his men. He is respected and idolized by his crew, with only Bettany to correct him when he’s wrong. Which leads to some interesting interactions. The supporting cast is too big to discuss separately, but all of them are very likable stereotypes. My personal favorite being Killick, the captain’s steward; who is basically a live-action version of The Simpsons’ Groundkeeper Willie.
Despite its bad run at the box office in 2003, it is still smooth sailing *hue hue* for Master and Commander thirteen years later. The naval battle scenes are intense, Russel Crowe doesn’t sing -ok, maybe a bit- and the historical setting is portrayed splendidly.
Writer/Director: Peter Weir
Stars: Russel Crowe, Paul Bettany
Duration: 138 minutes
When to watch? -when you’re bored of Jack Sparrow