Classic Review – Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World (2003)

Title – Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World (2003)

Director – Peter Weir (Dead Poets Society)

Cast – Russell Crowe, Paul Bettany, James D’Arcy, Max Pirkis, Billy Boyd

Plot – Set during the Napoleonic Wars, British naval captain Jack Aubrey (Crowe), with help from his dear friend and naval doctor Stephen Maturin (Bettany), traverses the dangerous oceans around South America in search of a formidable French vessel.

 “The simple truth is, not all of us become the men we once hoped we might be”

Review by Eddie on 03/12/2018

Holding up beautifully over 15 years since it was first released, Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World remains a joy to watch to this day and stands up as what could just be the best work of its esteemed director Peter Weir and his star Russell Crowe.

Adapting Patrick O’Brian’s famous naval novels that spanned numerous books (Commander collates roughly 4 books into one story), Weir and his leading man capture the high-sea life of determined British captain Jack Aubrey, his friendship with Paul Bettany’s long-term friend and doctor Stephen Maturin and his quest to track down a dangerous French vessel in the heat of the Napoleonic wars to magnificent effect.

Doing things as practically as possible, Commander was a labour for love for Weir and his crew, as they built a real-life replicas and worked largely on a water-filled stage, giving Commander a lived-in and realistic foundation that visual effects could never conjure up, making it a deserving recipient of 10 Oscar Nominations and 2 wins in a year that was dominated by Return of the King.

It’s what makes the film stand-up so well to this day, an experience that has lost none of its original charms and magic, as Aubrey and his crew face a myriad collection of problems on their adventures to beat the trials of the deep blue, the tension that builds between crewman and the dangerous battle that is waging between their ship the H.M.S Surprise and the much bigger and more well-equipped French vessel The Acheron.

Barely getting a respite from the day to day life of the ship, bar a thoroughly enjoyable stop over at the Galapagos Islands, Commander never once wavers in holding on tight to your attention as you begin to feel like a member of this crew both young and old, thanks to Weir and his cast members perfectly attuned delivery of the material.

As Aubrey, Crowe is as charismatic and well-cast as his ever been and while at the time he was riding a wave of public love following Gladiator and A Beautiful Mind, there’s a strong case for his turn here being his finest hour.

Getting the most out of his fellow Australian, Weir and Crowe make for quite the team and together combine to make this thoroughly enjoyable, moving and thrilling cinematic yarn, that’s an amazing feat of technical brilliance, that’s just as at home waging a battle on the high-seas as it is focussing on intimate character moments such as Aubrey and Maturin’s shared love of classical music, that sees the two jamming on the boat, much to the other crew members disdain.

Final Say –

Sadly a series that never was, we can still be thankful for this singular Master and Commander adventure, a stunning and memorable outing that stands the test of time as one of cinema’s best examples of a largely forgotten about and under-loved event.

5 flightless cormorants out of 5

4 responses to “Classic Review – Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World (2003)

  1. Thanks, Eddie for the review. I have to agree on this one wholeheartedly. I’m not such a fan of Crowe as a person, but believe him to be a good actor. The story is absolutely fantastic and I’m glad it was made into a film. Good job.

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