“Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World” DVD, Blu-ray Movie Review

5/06/2010 Posted by Admin

DVD, Blu-ray Movie Review

“Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World”

Directed by Peter Weir, written by Weir and John Collee, 140 minutes, rated PG-13.

By Christopher Smith

“Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World,” which director Peter Weir and screenwriter John Collee based on the first and 10th novels in Patrick O’Brian’s 20-volume set chronicling the Napoleonic War, is every bit as smart and as rousing as you might hope.

Backed by a $135 million budget--the lot of which fills the screen, but never garishly--this big, satisfying seafaring tale set in 1805 shrewdly doesn’t romanticize the time it depicts. That decision proves one of the film’s strongest selling points, especially given today’s increasing tendency by Hollywood to romanticize the past into a shape it never had.

Unlike some contemporary directors who mistakenly believe the word “epic” can’t apply to a film that runs less than three hours, Weir knows better. He understands that what matters when crafting an epic tone are the details, the characters and the relationships they share. Here, all of those qualities are carefully tended to in a movie whose 140-minute running time never feels padded or, for that matter, rushed.

In the film, Russell Crowe, who at this point in his career was tapping hard into the raw, unpredictable intensity of a young Richard Burton or Marlon Brando, gives a rich, mesmerizing performance as the complex British Capt. “Lucky” Jack Aubrey.

Thick and muscled, his face like a catcher’s mitt and his eyes revealing all the troubles and joys of life at sea, Aubrey finds himself and his crew of the "HMS Surprise" ambushed in the film’s riveting opening moments.

It’s the larger, better-armed French ship, the "Acheron," that sneaks through the fog to launch a surprise attack on the "Surprise." Surviving the battle with most of his crew intact, Aubrey repairs the ship and decides to cut a swath of revenge across the sea.

For some of the men onboard, this staunch, impulsive act of defiance lifts Aubrey higher into the potentially dangerous realm of deity--they love him for his rage and his passion even though they know both could kill them all in the end.

However, to his good friend Stephen Maturin (Paul Bettany), a naturalist who does double duty as the ship’s surgeon and Aubrey’s conscience, this rush to vengeance against the French is considered reckless and sobering.

In the film’s final act, Aubrey finds his opportunity to strike back at the crew of the Acheron, but before Weir allows audiences the rush of another battle--and it is a rush--he gives them life aboard ship and also on the Galapagos Islands. There, where flightless birds with stunted wings are unable to soar, the movie nevertheless finds a sense of freedom that balances the claustrophobia cinematographer Russell Boyd mines so memorably aboard ship.

Thoughtful and absorbing, its expert supporting cast and extras adding color but not caricature, “Master and Commander” remains one for the ages.

Grade: A

View the trailer for "Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World" below. What are your thoughts of the movie?

  • Digg
  • del.icio.us
  • StumbleUpon
  • Yahoo! Buzz
  • Technorati
  • Facebook
  • TwitThis
  • MySpace
  • LinkedIn
  • Live
  • Google
  • Reddit
  • Sphinn
  • Propeller
  • Slashdot
  • Netvibes