Nov 192003
 
Authors: Jeremy Anderson

2003 has been a good year at the movies for rousing adventure on

the high seas. “Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black

Pearl” was one of the biggest hits of the summer, and now “Master

and Commander: The Far Side of the World” sails into movie theaters

looking to make a splash as well.

Russell Crowe stars as Captain Jack Aubrey, the “master and

commander” of the British ship, the HMS Surprise. The Napoleonic

Wars are waging in the waters, and Aubrey has been ordered to scour

the oceans for The Acheron, a fast and powerful French warship.

Joining Aubrey in his perilous mission is a crew of strikingly

varied ages. Young boys hold rank right along with men old enough

to be their grandpas. The age differences of these “men” give the

film one of its most intriguing attributes.

Paul Bettany, Crowe’s co-star from “A Beautiful Mind,” plays

Stephen Maturin. He pulls double duty as the ship’s doctor and

Aubrey’s good friend. Maturin is also a naturalist who hopes to

encounter some new species of plants, insects and animals on the

voyage. Thankfully this hobby of his provides sporadic departures

from the film’s central plot just before you start to feel

seasick.

Most of “Master and Commander” is essentially a long buildup to

a climatic showdown. By the time the film reaches its climax, you

have gotten to know the characters well enough in order to root for

them and care about their fate. You almost feel like you have made

the journey onboard The Surprise with them.

The film is not nearly as action-packed or exciting as Crowe’s

“Gladiator,” but it doesn’t try to be either. “Master and

Commander” takes its time in getting to the action, and is more

concerned with topics like friendship, loyalty and bravery than

cannonballs and bloodshed. Action enthusiasts shouldn’t be too

disappointed, though, for the final battle is noticeably violent

for a PG-13 movie.

Russell Crowe is already generating loud Oscar buzz for his

commanding performance in the film. There is probably no other

actor in Hollywood who could personify the character as dignifiedly

as Crowe does. However, if I were an Oscar voter, I would vote for

the other Captain Jack, that is Johnny Depp’s Captain Jack Sparrow

from “Pirates of the Caribbean.”

As good as Crowe is in the film, the real standout performance

is from Paul Bettany. I found his role as doctor to be even more

compelling of a character, and his relationship with both Aubrey

and the ship’s youngest member supplies “Master and Commander” with

some of its most sincere moments.

3 out of 4

Opening this weekend

“Dr. Seuss’ The Cat in the Hat”

Mike Myers attempts to do for this Dr. Seuss adaptation what Jim

Carrey did for “The Grinch.”

Potential positives: Mike Myers is a comic genius and costars

Dakota Fanning (“I Am Sam”) and Spenser Breslin (Disney’s “The

Kid”) are two of the best child actors in Hollywood.

Potential negatives: Going off of the movie’s trailer alone,

this family-friendly film looks both slightly annoying and

unintentionally creepy.

“Gothika”

Halle Berry stars in her first psychological thriller as a

psychologist who wakes up to find herself a patient in the same

mental institution she works at.

Potential positives: The great cast, which also includes

Penelope Cruz and Robert Downey Jr., will hopefully make this

intriguing-sounding premise more than just a cool idea.

Potential negatives: The release date for “Gothika” was bumped

around a lot, which is usually not a good sign. Also, it may not

speak well for the film that a tie-in music video was made by the

ever-fading Limp Bizkit.

 

 

 

 

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