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
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
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.