Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World Review

by Susan Granger (ssg722 AT aol DOT com)
November 7th, 2003

Susan Granger: "Master and Commander: Far Side of the World" (20th Century-Fox) Set in 1805 during the Napoleonic Wars, this epic adventure begins off the coast of Brazil. British Captain "Lucky" Jack Aubrey (Russell Crowe) is stunned when his 28-gun warship, the HMS Surprise, is unexpectedly attacked and badly damaged not once but twice by the French frigate Acheron. Determined to find his elusive enemy, he tenaciously charts a dangerous, high-stakes chase across two oceans to the Galapagos Islands on the far side of the world. Based on Patrick O'Brian's historical novels, Australian writer/director/producer Peter Weir ("Gallipoli," "Dead Poets Society," "The Truman Show") and co-writer John Collee powerfully, yet subtly, create a fiercely complex yet fair-minded military hero - think Capt. Horatio Hornblower/ Capt. Ahab - and the intriguing individuals who comprise his bold and daring crew.
    There's the ship's surgeon, Stephen Maturin (Paul Bettany), an aristocratic naturalist who's intrigued by the unique species of the Galapagos Islands. While they relax playing violin/cello duets, the Aubrey/Maturin friendship psychologically pits the conflicted traditionalist against the modernist. It's natural for them to develop an emotional attachment to the young midshipmen who deliver powder to the gun crews, particularly 12 year-old Lord Blakeney (Max Pirkis). Russell Boyd's cinematography, ILM's visual effects, William Sandell's production design and Lee Smith's editing generate a harrowingly vivid authenticity to this claustrophobic, wooden world. It's just too bad that patches of dialogue are unintelligible amid the noise and confusion. On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, "Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World" is a thrilling, sea-worthy 9. Embark on a rousing voyage in one of the year's best adventures.

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