Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World

Peter Weir

Master and Commander: The Far Side of the WorldPeter Weir
While Oscar mostly teased Peter Weir's high seas action-adventure at this year's Academy Awards (nominated for ten awards, Master and Commander ended the evening with two for cinematography and sound editing), hearing the high-minded director speak of his beloved film renders such Hollywood backslapping all the more trivial. Essentially based on two books in a 20-volume set by Patrick O'Brian, the story takes place on an oceanic battlefield during the Napoleonic Wars. In 1805, British sea Captain Jack Aubrey (Russell Crowe) is ordered to capture the flagship of the French Navy, the Acheron. Commanding the battered H.M.S. Surprise, Aubrey and his crew face surprise counterattacks and foiled offensive strikes in battle sequences that rival the intensity and realism of the first quarter of Saving Private Ryan. What could in lesser hands be nothing more than a naval war/chase film asserts itself as an artfully crafted character study. Weir ensures that the audience becomes familiar with the great core of compelling British stage actors who serve as the ship's affable crew. Aubrey's headstrong leadership is balanced by his close friendship with the enlightened Dr. Stephen Maturin (Paul Bettany), as Weir wisely revisits the chemistry shared by Crowe and Bettany in A Beautiful Mind to make this a realistic relationship. The true force of this war epic, however, lies in Weir's approach to the original text he's an aficionado whose craft fosters an obsession with making the most exciting and authentic cinematic adaptation possible. "Patrick O'Brian is a magnificent writer of the first order," he gushes in one of the various "behind the scenes" featurettes. "It has been the most extraordinary experience and challenge to tell this story visually in a way that would do justice to his words." With a DVD edition that includes a 28-page book summarising the film's production and a historical fold-out map detailing the Surprise's various voyages, Weir and company must be saluted for doing their utmost to make their own history with Master and Commander. Plus: featurettes, deleted scenes, more. (Fox)
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