August 18, 2013

Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World

Peter Weir, 2003

This epic, based on the book by Patrick O'Brian, follows a British ship as it battles in the open sea against Napoleon's France. With his closest adviser growing impatient with his hunger for war, he continues to struggle to maintain a stronghold in the South American waters and also keep his soldiers morale at healthy levels.

Russell Crowe stars as Captain Jack Aubrey, a veteran captain who has lived through many battles and served under many famed leaders. You get the feeling that he doesn't like the feel of soil, it seems as if his true comfort zone is on his ship. There is a noticeable benevolence that he shows to the youngsters on his ship, with the hopes that he can set a good example for them as they will lead one day themselves. He clearly sees a lot of himself in them, and treats them to stories of his early days as he sips his wine. The film is not just a lengthy war movie, it's a character study of Captain Aubrey - and his interminable hunger for battle. He obviously wants to make his mark in the history books.

The film won Oscars for Best Cinematography and Best Sound Editing. The camera work is very impressive, seeing as the entire movie is shot in the obvious presence of water - which at times is delivered in the form of violent storms. The ship itself feels like it's in another world at times. Almost other-dimensional, like in Valhalla Rising. The cabin is beautifully constructed with some memorable shots of the camera moving through battle scenes, showing cannon fire and soldiers frantically rushing to their posts. Shots of the foggy horizon, with the sudden orange glow of an impending onslaught. While the loaded dialogue is difficult to keep up with at times, the film is still quite alluring. Weir effectively develops characters that you take a genuine interest in.

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