Crowe crosses the wayward ocean
With Errol Flynn-style heroics, director Peter Weir spins a sampling of Patrick O’Brian’s historically lush sea memoirs into a swashbuckling film adventure, Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World.
Russell Crowe stars in this naval adventure, set during the Napoleonic War. Playing Captain Jack Aubrey, Crowe is loved and trusted by his men for using his wits and famous luck, leading them through countless battles against all odds. Aubrey’s ship has been sent by the British Navy to intercept a much larger and faster French-aligned ship sailing to turn the tide of battle in the Pacific. But Aubrey quickly realizes that the enemy knows of his presence and is lying in wait for him. After the first vicious encounter with the enemy, Aubrey is determined to refit his damaged ship and complete his mission before his newest nemesis joins the war against the British colonies.
Cape Horn and the Galapagos Islands give Weir’s movie a stunning backdrop and an opportunity for the characters to take a break from being soldiers for a little while. A young shipmate and Dr. Maturin, the ship surgeon, document the undiscovered fauna of a Galapagos island while the captain exchanges a brief glance with a beautiful native.
Master and Commanderdoes not contain enough combat scenes to make it a true action movie; it focuses instead on the relationships between the men on the boat. Aubrey must make difficult decisions regarding the lives of his men and is often challenged by the equally hardheaded but less military Maturin, his best friend (played by Paul Bettany).
Themes of brotherhood and the aristocratic honor of the officer class, references to Coleridge’s “Rime of the Ancient Mariner” and a score of period parlor music, played by Aubrey and Maturin during their off-duty hours, combine to make this a solid movie.
The fighting is suspenseful and exciting, but the time in between often moves slowly as the ship waits for gusts of wind to carry it, leaving the crew becalmed for days on end. Some scenes are also unnecessarily gory and difficult to watch. Despite these small difficulties, Master and Commander is an excellent “boy movie” if you have the patience for it.