Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World Review

by Karina Montgomery (karina AT cinerina DOT com)
February 9th, 2004

Master and Commander


Yeah, I know, it's up for Best Picture, but it's got to be nominated for Best Picture only for the truly astounding physical and technical aspect of the film. The merits of this aspect of Master & Commander, it must be said, are worthy. However, even Titanic made all the people care, even if they hated the movie for making them care. Perhaps the nominating committee got confused by the reteaming of A Beautiful Mind's Russell Crowe and Paul Bettany. "Oh, those guys, weren't they in something together? Maybe this is that movie I liked so much,, I can't remember. Jack, tell me what to do." I'm sorry to say that if you have not read the twenty or so books on which this film is based (which I have not), you will not get a whole heck of insight into anyone's character or what drives them. And yes, I also censure the confusing and irritating ending. Just try to go on the internet and find out what the heck happened. And then tell me!
So find someone who has a really expensive television, fantastic surround sound, pop in the DVD when it comes out, and then crack jokes all the way through the movie in order to keep yourself entertained. My companion and I came out of the film the happier for resorting to Beatiful Mind and Star Trek jokes to carry us through the dull parts. As soon as the cannon start blasting or the rigging starts creaking, the film is detailed, rich, and absorbing. As soon as everyone calms down and starts making lame entomological jokes, however, it's time to pull out comparisons to other aquatic action movies.

As soon as we start caring about a character, he is either dispatched with forthwith, or he is immediately yanked from the storyline, hovering tantalizingly in shots waiting to take up his story again, but always to be denied. Heavy sigh. The good news is that means the odds are all the better for the films which much more richly deserve to tak e home the prize come Oscar night. Paul Bettany finally gets to be the more interesting character after his surprise demotion in Beautiful Mind; all we know about Crowe's character, you know, the titular boss man, is that they call him Lucky Jack, and he knows his way around his (and other) boats.

Also worthy of note is the great footage obtained on the Galapagos Islands (or a reasonable facsimile off New Zealand). The careful viewer will have all kinds of zoological fun watching the background action while the scenes drag on. Again, Bettany gets to be cool, briefly, and then...zzzzzzzz.

It's not a movie you will want to write home about, but it's deserving of your attention for its own incredibly minute detail and the shipwork.

These reviews (c) 2003-2004 Karina Montgomery. Please feel free to forward but credit the reviewer in the text. Thanks. You can check out previous reviews at: and - the Online Film Critics Society - Hollywood Stock Exchange Brokerage Resource

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