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Master And Commander: The Far Side Of The World (2003)

Crashing waves, booming cannons, pony-tails and silly hats

Rating: 7/10

Running Time: 138 minutes

UK Certificate: 12A

Crashing waves, booming cannons, pony-tails and silly hats. That’s what’s on the menu in ‘Master and Commander’, 2003’s sea-faring epic from Truman Show director Peter Weir – and there’s nobody more suited to being underneath a pony’s tail than Russell Crowe. Based on the overwhelmingly popular series of novels by Patrick O’Brian, this loud, bustling we’re-men-and-damn-fine-ones-at-that tale showcases Crowe at his rumbly-voiced best. He’s Captain Jack Aubrey, stubbly-chinned commander of the HMS Surprise, and he likes nothing better than to bark orders at his shipmates, recount endless anecdotes of life on the ocean wave, and toast his own jokes. He couldn’t be more of a man if he pulled down his alarmingly tight tights and dangled his danglies over the stern of the ship. This 140-minute beast of a movie takes us back to 1805, where Aubrey and crew are intent on chasing down a bigger, stronger Napoleonic vessel in order to teach those French a lesson. Those aboard rest only to praise their swashbuckling captain’s capabilities (“My God, that’s seamanship!”), with the one exception of ship’s doctor Stephen Maturin (Paul Bettany), who enjoys a strange, bickering almost flirtatious friendship with this overly-manly leader. Oooh, behave. As an example of how to put realistic battle scenes together, ‘Master and Commander’ is right up there with ‘Braveheart’. Technically this is an awe-inspiring film, that drags the viewer right into the eye of the storm and the heart of the action. Unfortunately, plot-wise it’s a turgid old tale. Weir spends a lot of time developing his characters, but then gives them very little of interest to actually do. I’ve heard this film described as “’Gladiator’ on water”, but it lacks the engrossing storyline of its Roman counterpart. As a result, I was left largely unengaged and disappointed by its unfulfilled potential.

It's Got: A trip to the Galapagos Islands to examine strange animals like … oooh, I dunno. How about a 10-foot tall peccary and a chicken shaped like an apple.

It Needs: A stronger plotline.


Big, brash and powerfully performed – but it only sporadically holds the interest.