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Last Updated: Wednesday, 3 December, 2003, 09:39 GMT
Crowe's Commander a rousing tale
By Julian Shea
BBC News

Russell Crowe
Russell Crowe's Captain Jack Aubrey is attracting Oscar interest
Russell Crowe stars as a courageous British sea captain in the film Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World, which is released in the UK on Friday.

Given their devoted readership, it was only a matter of time before someone tried to bring Patrick O'Brian's Jack Aubrey nautical books to the big screen.

For Master and Commander, two of the multi-volume series have been spliced together.

With an Australian directing and a New Zealander starring as this most English of heroes, purists may have their fears.

But they are unfounded. Master and Commander is a fantastically entertaining, intelligent, grown-up adventure film that never lets its audience down.

The story centres on the Holmes and Watson-styled relationship between Captain Jack Aubrey (Russell Crowe) and Dr Stephen Maturin (Paul Bettany) on HMS Surprise.

Director Peter Weir... brilliantly conveys the claustrophobia and chaos of life before and during battle.
The action takes place as they pursue the French ship Acheron around South America during the Napoleonic Wars.

It is an old-fashioned, goodies versus baddies adventure, refreshingly free of post-modern ironic twists or tinkering, and largely set in the prison-like, female-free atmosphere of a ship at war.

Director Peter Weir has previously dealt with the pressures of life under fire (Gallipoli) and in confined spaces (The Truman Show) - and here he brilliantly conveys the claustrophobia and chaos of life before and during battle.

Oscar contender

The film looks utterly convincing - particularly the storm sequences. The dialogue rings true and the soundtrack certainly adds to the atmosphere.

The only instantly recognisable name in a uniformly excellent cast is Crowe, who is in his element and very convincing as a leader of men.

Expect Oscar nominations for this rousing adventure - and hope for sequels. With many more books still unfilmed, this is unlikely to be the last we see of Jack Aubrey.

  • Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World is released in the UK on Friday.

    Have you seen Master and Commander? What did you think of the film? This debate is now closed. Please see below for a selection of your comments.

    Thoroughly enjoyed it, a refreshing change to see a film that wasn't drowned out by (obvious) special effects and typical Hollywood music!
    Wai Ming Lee, UK

    True to the books. A most excellent movie! Recommend!
    Ivan Weir, UK

    One of the worst films I ever saw. The movie is just a hype and I am disappointed. It is a waste of time and a meaningless movie with no plot.
    Shridhar Jupudi, USA

    This is a terrific movie. Gripping action from the get-go, more than decent acting from all hands, a surprisingly tender moment that follows a wrenching one. Like others who enjoyed the film, I am hopeful that this will sire a sequel or two. If we have to put up with the drearily-acted Star Wars prequels, give us some more of Capt Aubrey and his crew.
    Philip Bartolf, USA

    What a great film! Excellent direction, intelligent story, great acting and stunning seamless SFX. I'm glad to see films like this can still be made. Best film this year!
    Nelson, England

    Probably the second best film of the year (first being Lost in Translation). The star of this movie is definitely Peter Weir - the guy can do any genre (thriller Witness, satire Truman Show, drama Dead Poets Society and now this).
    Calvin, England

    Loved the film. 10/10. However, the best thing is the potential of the sequel. The books really get intriguing when Maturin is sent off spying for the British. Since this film doesn't feature any spying we can look forward to a truly rewarding and different sequel (unlike most sequels which are just a repeat of the first film, plus more explosions).
    Shane, UK

    I had some reservations seeing this film, knowing nothing about it whatsoever, other than a fat Russell Crowe and plenty of water. I was plesantly surprised and in awe of the magnificent ship, surprise. I hope there will be a sequel as the sight of Jack Aulbery playing his violin, telling funny little jokes, being compassionate, was a most enchanting thing.
    Vik, England

    What an utterly pointless, bore of a film - a complete waste of my time. For the first time ever I felt like walking out of the cinema half way through it. So much hype for a truly terrible production - no plot, average acting and a mind-numbingly tedious story overall. Avoid at all costs!
    N, UK (currently in US)

    The film started off very well, and I was absorbed in the plot, unfortunately 30 minutes into the film I fell asleep and woke up to find the credits rolling like the trepid seas encountered by Crowe.
    Eddy, England

    Stirring stuff. Well acted - striking a sound balance between cerebral, Holmesian scenes and unflinching, visceral warfare. Hopefully will continue the trend since Gladiator of robust, unpretentious, old-fashioned yet highly effective big-screen entertainment.
    Dan, UK

    This film had everything. Plenty of realism, spellbinding yet not over the top action, a believable and amusing crew, plenty of emotion (eg the amputation scene) and an open ending leaving you desperate for a sequel or two. Absolutely no Hollywood cheese or big name stars with bad English accents in sight (Russell's, as you'd expect, is mostly good). Fantastic film all round, for adults and over tens.
    James Martin, UK

    No Oscars here I'm afraid although Crowe is fine - there is no sense of excitement and the film sort of bowls slowly along with the swell of the sea it is set in!! People were on the edge of their seats around me though, waiting for the film to fizzle out (which it literally did) so they could get off for last orders at the bar!
    John Brookes, South Yorkshire, England

    While Crowe has the charisma to carry off this film and is very believable as Lucky Jack Aubrey, there is something lacking in the film, apart from humour (it's nearly as humourless as The Phantom Menace). The battle scenes are over far too quickly to be considered amazing and the film moves very slowly at times. However, if naval films are you thing then this should really float your boat.
    Barry, Belfast

    I've seen it three times now, with mostly-full audiences each time. No grumblings heard while leaving any of the showings. I think it's a fantastic movie, but NOT an action-adventure, as the trailers might lead you to believe. Instead, it's a great portrayal of life at sea. A thinking-man's (or woman's) movie.
    Ann, USA

    Saw this film last night, having nothing more than the trailer to go off, fantastic film. It was 2 hours and a bit that utterly flew by.

    I think the few that will not enjoy this film are probably the same few who think 2 fast 2 furious is a good movie.

    I believe there will be possible Oscars for this film, I hope that it does not take any away from The Return of the King.
    Stephen Owen, UK

    Very cleverly shot film but so boring! The best part was the friendship between captain and doctor on board.
    Caroline, UK

    Hornblower, thou hast been surpassed! Magnificent! Here's hoping they do equally well with the other books.
    Robert del Valle, USA

    I thought that this was a marvellous film. Russell is very good and I enjoyed the inter-crew relationships very much. I especially like the relationship between Flitwick and Malfoy.
    Blenda Shrivelworth, UK

    Totally boring. Just a movie about guys living on a boat getting drunk. Nothing we haven't seen before. Direct copy of "the storm" but with a bigger boat. The trailer indicates a great action movie. But there is none. If you are having problems sleeping, go watch this movie.
    Steven, UK

    I loved this film. Crowe and Bettany are brilliant in the lead roles. This film proved you don't necessarily need romance to make a good film. Better than this year's underwhelming Matrix offerings and will give The Lord of the Rings a run for its money as the year's best film.
    Owen Benton, England

    Saw it yesterday: no gimmicks, no technology, no bleeps, clicks or flashing lights and no sex - how refreshing! A top class high seas adventure movie that gives 2 & half hours of well-acted and realistic cinema. Great stuff!
    Shannon, UK

    Sorry to spoil the party, but this film is dull. Sure there's realism in the under fire scenes, and Crowe is Ok, but you'd be better getting a Hornblower video instead, much more exciting and less drawn out. No more than 5 out of 10.
    David Bell, Scotland

    An outstanding, beautiful film. Should be seen more than once to appreciate the detail, cinematography, and of course the characters. Russell Crowe has done it again, he disappeared into this character as he does in all his roles. It is magic watching him on the big screen.

    I would have been pleased to see more scenes with Aubrey and Maturin interacting, they were a perfect combination of characters.
    Aurora V. McHugh, USA

    What a wonderful film, great action sequences. I went with my 13-year-old son and he loved it. I'll have to see it again because there is just too much to see in one viewing.
    Kevin Butler, Canada

    I thought the film was excellent - Crowe & Bettany both captivating, the scenes made you feel like you could've been there. Interestingly the plot with the French had resemblance to one of the Horatio Hornblower episodes. But that is no bad thing. Both give believable accounts of life in the British Navy during Napoleon's reign. Go and see this film. A real Oscar contender.
    Nicola, Vancouver, Canada

    I am an enormous fan of the Aubrey/Maturin books, having read all 20, some of them twice. I felt that the film was as good as it was possible to make. Crowe was excellent as Aubrey, and while Paul Bettany was physically wrong for Maturin (who is described in the books as being greasy and ugly) he caught the tone of voice and fierce intelligence well.

    However, having conflated books 1 and 10 of the series, and changed the historical setting, I don't know which they might choose for the next film. For those people who aren't lucky enough to have read the books yet, there is also a great deal of very interesting plot development on dry land.
    Edward, UK

    Was very surprised how great a film, "Master and Commander?", turned out to be. It was a long but engaging film, full of humor, adventure and great convincing background scenes.

    My roommate and I think it is one of the few great films out right now that caters to adults. A-must-see film fort his holiday.
    Vinh Thai, U.S.A

    A fantastic film, well worth seeing - praise all round to Weir, Crowe, Bettany and all involved for making an enthralling adventure. Russell's accent wobbles a bit in places, but overall he makes a convincing captain and you believe the crew would follow him to the 'Far Side of the World' without a moment's hesitation. Top notch stuff!
    Mary, Scotland

    Best movie I saw in a long time, the depiction of life at sea and the workings of a battelship are amazing, actors are believable and I expect to see more of some of them in the future, also a sequel to master and comander!!! great job all arround!
    mfitzek, austria/usa

    I am a devotee of the books and went to see the movie with great trepidation. I loved it! The film cleverly sketches in enough of the small details which are in the books without belabouring them, thus satifying the enthusiast of the books without belabouring those who have not read them. Wonderfully done!
    Mervyn Long, USA

    I think this is an excellent film although perhaps a little drawn out in the middle. Russell Crowe is a convincing actor and has succeeded in making this a worth seeing film. I agree with your review - there are some potential Oscars in this film.
    Gavin, Scotland

    I saw the première in Rome (which included Russell Crowe himself treating the cinema to a little speech in Italian!). Even though I'm not a big Crowe fan, I have to admit he was excellent (as was all the cast, especially the delightful Bettany!) in this very charming tale of adventure on the high seas!
    susan, Italy

    A good entertaining film,not for once full of outrageous special effects,just good plain but believable character acting. All the "crew" were very well cast and I thought the younger members were just as good as their older counterparts. As for the action sequences... well you felt like you were there on the ship.
    Kevin Mason, UK

    Very good and very convincing, quite clever as well in how they tied in the way of nature's survival into the winning sceme for Russell Crowe against his french foes.

    Daniel Tormey, England

    What an utterly fantastic spell-binding movie! I went to see this last week and just loved it. The action, the story, the scenery and the acting. It confirmed what I had always thought that Russell Crowe while difficult at times in real life is a remarkable actor. The film shows the hard life that men had to endure in those times. While the film does not gratuitously show the gruesome aspects of that kind of life they certainly are implied in such a way that you cannot escape them. I really did feel like I was there in the film like one reviewer wrote.
    liz, Brit in the US

    Crowe should win an Oscar! Best film this year by far.
    Mike, UK

    Wonderful film. Pace never flagged, tone perfect, tension and humour and boasting great acting - Mr Blakeney, what a find that little boy is, resembling Mark Lester in Oliver and acting superbly, giving the lie that you should never work with children or animals. Aubrey's rousing speech prior to battle evoked Agincourt stirrings, a far cry from war nowadays where those in charge are a good three continents away from the action. Splendid stuff. Roll on the next one.
    CCC, England

    I thought the film was excellent, Russell Crowe was very charismatic as the captain but I also though Paul Bettany was great in the less showy role of the ship's doctor, as was the whole cast really. It is a gorgeous looking film with perfect period detail and some very exciting and tense scenes, obviously the battle scenes but also the part where the ship's mast breaks and the captain has an awful decision to make. Very enjoyable film!
    Linzi, UK/Canada

    Atmospheric, attention to detail,rousing. Emotional, engrossing, left me wanting more!!
    Eve Thurstans, England

    I saw this last week when it came out in the states and have to say its one of the best films I have seen all year. The acting and story are first class and Russell Crowe for once is captivating in the title role showing a sensitive and powerful performance
    Ian Gascoigne, UK

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