Master and Commander
The Far Side of the World
2 out of 5 stars
R E V I E W   B Y   R I C H   C L I N E
Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World Support Shadows: Buy a Poster
Produced with a stunning attention to period detail, this film is thoroughly entertaining even if it suffers from a seriously weak script. It's 1805 and England is at war with Napoleon, a conflict that stretches to wherever their forces meet, even if it's on the other side of the globe. And when tenacious captain Jack Aubrey (Crowe) encounters a phantom French ship off the coast of Brazil, he takes off after them ... even though it means a treacherous journey around Cape Horn to the Galapagos Islands. Along the way we get to know a few of his crew members: His buddy Stephen (Bettany), the ship's doctor; the loyal first officer (D'Arcy); a midshipman (Ingleby) who begins to believe the rumour that he's bad luck; and the ludicrously young Lord Blakeney (Pirkis), who doesn't let the loss of an arm slow him down.

All of this is gorgeously filmed by Weir--it looks fantastic, and vividly captures several of the quirky truths about the period on screen. The problem lies in the story itself, which is a combination of two Patrick O'Brian novels; it's just far too simplistic for a two-hours-plus seafaring epic! Basically the entire film is a single pursuit that's only livened up by a layover on the Galapagos (gorgeously filmed, complete with teeming wildlife). While Crowe is very good in the focussed-but-dull captain's role, Bettany steals the film with a much more interesting character--someone who actually has some emotional depth! Others just blend into the crowd, and it's often hard to keep them apart, although Ingleby and Pirkis do make a serious impact. Attempts at humour are welcome amid all the rah-rah King and Country stuff, but the comedy is often corny as well, badly weakening the film as a whole. The problem is that there are far too many ill-defined characters, all well-played but not nearly interesting enough to capture our interest. All that's left is a lively look at 19th century ship life--rousing camaraderie and a bit too much singing (and string instrument playing), plus some astonishingly well-staged battles. The details and the epic scale are great ... but the story isn't good enough to make it work.

cert 12 tbc themes, violence, language 29.Oct.03

dir Peter Weir
scr Peter Weir, John Collee
with Russell Crowe, Paul Bettany, James D'Arcy, Edward Woodall, Chris Larkin, Max Pirkis, Jack Randall, Max Benitz, Lee Ingleby, Billy Boyd, Robert Pugh, Richard McCabe, Ian Mercer, Tony Dolan, David Threlfall, Bryan Dick
release US 14.Nov.03; UK 21.Nov.03
03/US 2h15

Captain my captain: Crowe

bettany boyd
R E A D E R   R E V I E W S
send your review to Shadows... master and commander Laurie T, Minneapolis: "I LIKED this movie - Russell Crowe plays his part well, and the relationship between him and the ship's doctor (Bettany) is fascinating to watch. The fight scenes are awesome, and the whole movie is an enjoyable adventure on the high seas. It kinda make me feel how it must have been to sail the seas on a tiny little boat." (21.Nov.03)
2003 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall