Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World

This movie presents one fantastic voyage. It is fantastic, that is, if you enjoy watching movies with long pointless scenes followed by long periods of action with unintelligible language.

The movie follows the journey of the British HMS Surprise as it chases the much larger French Warship, the Acheron in 1805. The Napoleonic Era is coming to a prime, and the battle for the Seas is key to winning control of the world. The Captain of the Surprise, wittingly played by Russell Crowe, is hellbent on destruction as he pursues the faster, better, bigger, and seemingly over-supplied French Nemesis.

This is the plot that great movies are made of. Unfortunately, we don’t get that here. The filmed sequences aboard the Surprise are unbelievably real. The sounds of the ocean and the way they echo through your soul when aboard a ship in expertly reproduced. Character development is well maintained, and the method acting displayed by all on screen is well portrayed. The depth of the characters is lost on the acting, and thus, we are left with a flat story presented by flat actors.

The sequences when the crew battle the sea are stunning, only because most of them are completely lost in the noise of the storm. Most of the movie’s dialog is masked behind strong winds or cannon fire. Often, a person pointing to something off screen while acting frightened is the audiences only clue that something bad is about to happen. The audience doesn’t know what it is, and thus, the ultimate suspense of the moment is obscured with the wind. Finally, something visual happens, and a giant light bulb goes on over the audience as we learn what everybody on screen was yelling like mad to try and warn us about. When they weren’t in battle or fighting nature, the characters were enthralled by the wildlife around them. I anticipated a character named Darwin to pop up somewhere to talk about the turtles or the birds, but alas, Darwin hadn’t even been born yet, and he won’t even touch foreign soil until January 16, 1832.

Along the strong points of this film, the sound editing, the acting, should also be added the cinematography and the reality of the ships themselves. Often, I found myself in awe of the ships, the rigging,and the absolute reality they portrayed.

Altogether, a solid attempt at a great movie. Unfortunately, it didn’t live up to the marketing or the hype, or even Mr. Crowe’s ability to act. Fortunate for this movie, it was released in 2003, and it will have a chance to shine amongst this past year’s gens (See my reviews of Duplex, Freddy Vs. Jason, My Boss’ Daughter)

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