Written By: Patrick O'Brian (novels) / Peter Weir & John Collee (screenplay)
Starring: Russell Crowe, Paul Bettany, James D'Arcy, Edward Woodall,
Chris Larkin, Max Pirkis, Jack Randall, Max Benitz, Lee Ingleby, Richard Pates,
Robert Pugh, Richard McCabe, Ian Mercer, Tony Dolan, David Threlfall
MPAA: Rated PG-13 for intense battle sequences & images, and brief language.
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It is the time of the Napoleonic wars. Captain "Lucky" Jack Aubrey, Commander of the HMS Surprise, and his crew have been given a seemingly impossible mission. They are to find and engage the Acheron, a French warship prowling off the coast of South America. The Acheron is larger and more technically advanced than the Surprise, and has more than twice the firepower. Damn the odds - it must be stopped! Yes, it's a daring game of cat and mouse on the high seas. Can it get any better than that? You bet it can! Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World is much more than a swashbuckling adventure. After all, what's so great about buckled swashes, anyway?
Above and beyond its exciting premise, Master and Commander: FSW offers an incredible glimpse into what serving aboard a 19th century British warship was really like. What I enjoyed most about this movie was that it shows how ships like the HMS Surprise were more than just seagoing weapons. They were also self-contained communities and homes for the men who crewed them. It is this unbreakable bond between man and ship that many similar films neglect to explore. Not so in Master and Commander: FSW! Much of the story concerns the daily interactions between Captain Aubrey, played by Russell Crowe, and the men who serve under him. Central is the relationship between Captain Aubrey and the ship's doctor, Stephen Maturin, played by Paul Bettany. Dr. Maturin is a man of science, a naturalist, and a close friend and confidant to the Captain. This blend of character study with thrilling action slows the pace quite a bit, but does give the film a fascinating and original dynamic not often seen. Director Peter Weir's incredible attention to detail helps keep these quieter, between-battle sequences always interesting.
In addition, Master and Commander: FSW also offers some fine visual effects. The battle and storm scenes were especially impressive! In fact, all the CGI work in the film was very good, except for one scene. I'm not going to say which scene that is, but believe me, you'll know it when you see it. Luckily, it goes by quickly!
On the acting front, Russell Crowe and Paul Bettany each turn in wonderful performances. Are they a team now, or was their pairing here and in A Beautiful Mind just a happy coincidence? Whatever the reason, it was a great casting decision in both cases.
So, for my money, Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World delivers in grand style. If you like your adventures to have intelligence as well, you're sure to agree!