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Russell Crowe, Paul Bettany, Billy Boyd, James D'Arcy, Lee Ingleby ... see more see more... , George Innes , Mark Lewis Jones , Chris Larkin , Richard McCabe , Robert Pugh , David Threlfall , Max Pirkis , Edward Woodall , Ian Mercer , Max Benitz , Jack Randall

Director Peter Weir's first turn behind the camera since 1998's critically acclaimed The Truman Show, Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World is based on two Napoleonic War-era adventure novel... read more read more...s in author Patrick O'Brian's Aubrey/Maturin series, Master and Commander and The Far Side of the World. Russell Crowe stars as Captain Jack Aubrey, a high-seas adventurer who maintains a strong bond with ship-surgeon Stephen Maturin (Paul Bettany). After conquering much of Europe already, Napoleon's forces have set their sights on taking Britain, so Aubrey and the crew of his ship, the HMS Surprise, take to the Pacific to intercept any attacking ships from the French fleet. When Aubrey eyes a renegade French super-frigate, the Surprise pursues, leading to an adrenaline-charged chase through the distant reaches of the sea. Edward Woodall, James D'Arcy, and Lee Ingleby also star as members of the Surprise's crew. ~ Matthew Tobey, Rovi

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80% liked it

139,413 ratings


85% liked it

208 critics

PG-13, 2 hr. 17 min.

Directed by: Peter Weir

Release Date: November 14, 2003

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DVD Release Date: April 20, 2004


Stats: 6,599 reviews

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Flixster Reviews (6,599)

  • December 23, 2011
    Interesting to see how naval battles were fought in the early 1800's. If only they knew then what we know now. To the chagrin of some of his senior crew, Cptn Jack Aubrey sets out to defeat a technically superior ship.
  • December 11, 2011
    Peter Weir's adventurous period drama was ambitiously conceived, magnificently executed. The film is set in 1805, during the time of Napoleon's near-total power over Europe. Jack Aubrey (Russell Crowe) has taken his small South American ship, the HMS Surprise, and his crew to t... read morehe Pacific Ocean, planning to intercept any French fleet. The problem arises when a French frigate enters the Pacific--a much larger, more powerfully armed ship.

    At this point, I'm positive director Peter Weir can never let an audience down. After seeing his 1985 collaboration with Harrison Ford (WITNESS), and his 1989 collaboration with Robin Williams (DEAD POETS SOCIETY), I was more than excited to watch this 2003 collaboration with Russell Crowe. I think MASTER AND COMMANDER is by far the best of the three films I've seen by Weir.

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  • November 12, 2011
    Master and Commander based on the Aubrey/Maturin novels by historical author Patrick O'Brian is, unfortunately a mediocre film that doesn't quite cut it. The books are terrific, filled to the brim with rich descriptions of that time. The novels are beautifully written, highly ent... read moreertaining and above all brilliant. But, this is not the case with this film adaptation. Before, I go any further, I loved the look of the film, and I thought director Peter Weir captured the look of the period perfectly. Unfortunately, a good looking film doesn't necessarily mean it's a good film. Master and Commander is a mediocre film that could have been much better than this, considering that the books are wonderful. Despite the somewhat lacking material on-screen, the performances delivered by the actors, especially Crowe and Bettany are terrific. I've enjoyed what I read by Patrick O'Brian and love the historical aspect of his works. Unfortunately, Master and Commander is a boring film that nothing happens for long periods of time. Don't get me wrong, I absolutely love films where it takes time for the plot to unfold, but unlike the book, this film went nowhere. I saw this in the theatre and the audience seemed bored. Peter Weir is a good director, but with this film, he just doesn't cut it. Considering that the books are filled with adventure, action and are exciting to read; the film adaptation of Master and Commander could have been an exhilarating adventure film, and though it somewhat captures the essence of novel, this is a mediocre film that doesn't deliver what the books do so well. If you haven't seen this film, read the books instead, they're better and better conceived. Master and Commander for me was a disappointment.
  • May 23, 2011
    2003 was an interesting year for nautical films. A revival of sorts almost happened, but not quite. In that year there was Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl and this film. While that one was a rip-roaring action film that proved to be great for popcorn entert... read moreainment, this film takes a more intelligent and artsy approach, proving to be a technical masterpiece that will mostly appeal only to some, namely due to lots of quiet moments of dialogue, sparse action scenes, and a greater eye for attention to detail and period accuracy.

    This film has a story, and it's a good one, but it's not about the plot. It's more about the characters, namely the two principals: the strong captain played by Russell Crowe, and his friend- the ship's docter and naturalist played by Paul Bettany. Both are terrific in their roles, drawing apt comparisons to Sherlock Holmes and Watson.

    This is not a film for everyone though. A lot of people may find it boring, and I'll admit, there could have been another action scene or two, and some more development with some of the other characters, but all in all, I found this to be a very fascinating film. I know some but not a lot about the nautical world of this time period, but from what I do know, this film gets a great deal of it correct, and that's something I really appreciate. If you ever wanted to know about the ins and outs of being on a early 19th Century British warship, than this is the film for you.

    The film was nominated for many Academy Awards, but only came away with a couple. One of those, however, was for cinematography, and that one was well deserved. Then again, this is a Peter Weir film, so I kind of expected that. I also liked that the film used a mixture of techniques to get thingsdone, including models and replicas, instead of putting too great of a reliance on cg. Something I found quite striking was the music. There's not as much of it as you might think, adding to the atmosphere and setting greatly.

    If you want a movie that is both thrilling (at times), yet has very high artistic merits, then you really need to see this. Despite a few nitpicks, I thought it was amazing. There needs to be some sequels to this one, and I'm surprised they haven't happened yet. Someone make it happen.
  • May 10, 2011
    I dunno...maybe it's cuz for the last two years, I was conditioned to hate Russell Crowe, or maybe it's cuz the future of a relationship hinges upon my liking of the movie, and I subconsciously judged it on a higher caliber because Justin was lukewarm about The 400 Blows :... read more~P...I just wasn't terribly into it.

    Russell Crowe isn't bad necessarily; his character just isn't that compelling. Jack Aubrey is morally upright, albeit tempestuous at times, and his mood swings and rash decisions are somewhat predictable. He is overshadowed by the good doctor, brilliantly played by Paul Bettany, whom I like, even though the only other movie I remember him in is Wimbledon... The self-surgery scene is horrifically intense.

    Nevertheless, props to the movie for eschewing the swashbuckling fun of the Pirates franchise and instead, portraying the gritty violence and danger of the high seas.
  • March 6, 2011
    A great film, wiyh cool action scenes, and great acting. But just doesn't have that certain spark to be perfect
  • December 6, 2010
    Master and Commander for me was the return of the Peter Weir I love. The last Weir film I really liked was The Mosquito Coast made back in 1986. Master & Commander came out at a time were 'Epics' were rife, and the fact that Crowe had the lead role, I thought this would be anothe... read morer case of 'Here we go again', thankfully, I was wrong. There is so much more to this film than it just being another 'Swashbuckler' but I have to say, I really can't stand Billy Boyd. Thankfully, that was probably my only criticism.
  • September 15, 2010
    I should have been more impressed with this, but it wasn't to be. When it was nominated for Best Picture, I told myself "I need to see that," and then remembered that I already had...and in the theatre yet.
  • May 26, 2010
    Definitely one of the greatest adventure movie ever made. Not only is it entertaining it also says a little bit about the military and the fascist structure of a navy boat. Russell Crowe was able to play a person and not a character, but one who killed.
  • March 26, 2010
    It would be very hard for any director to follow The Truman Show, even if that director was Peter Weir. Having proved himself to be adept with period dramas (Dead Poets' Society), romantic comedies (Green Card) and religious thrillers (Witness), Weir sets his sights in Master and... read more Commander on the good old-fashioned historical epic. Drawing on his great work in Gallipoli, his adaptation of Patrick O'Brian's series of novels is a very fine effort, combining character drama and frenetic action in an excellent balance. It isn't perfect, nor is it Weir's finest work, but it still comes with a hearty recommendation.

    Although its historical setting and level of resulting pomp may tempt comparisons with Barry Lyndon and Mutiny on the Bounty, Master and Commander is closest in its themes and orchestration to Ridley Scott's Gladiator. Both films are about duty and honour, and how these values often come into conflict with our humanity and capacity for friendship. Both films also benefit from the presence of Russell Crowe, although there is a key difference in character. Where Maximus is driven only to serve, and hence makes a reluctant hero, Jack Aubrey is a born leader who revels in both the rough glamour of naval life and the strict discipline associated with the uniform.

    At the centre of Master and Commander is a discussion on the nature and function of leadership, epitomised by the difficult friendship of Captain Aubrey and Dr. Steven Maturin, played by Paul Bettany. Their conversations scattered throughout the film are the high points of the story, helping to explain Aubrey's decisions while never justifying him unconditionally. While Aubrey is portrayed as a sympathetic character and a lovable rogue, he is not a perfect hero who commands universal adoration. Even Nelson's character is questioned during an early scene, with one officer commenting that he was not so much a great sailor as a great leader.

    Bettany's character is the voice of calm and humanistic reason, someone who attempts to counter Aubrey's potentially lethal cocktail of duty and pride. He delivers great lines about how leaders become so quickly corrupted, and how scientific progress can be neglected in the pursuit of fruitless war -- to which Aubrey can only shout, "We have no time for your damned hobbies Sir!". Their friendship grows deeper and more complex as the film rolls on, so that we forgive them even when they are badly miming their instruments in the final scene.

    The distant and claustrophobic feel of the H.M.S. Surprise is the perfect means to explore the ways in which men cope with the horrors of war. Richard Roeper was right on the money when he compared the Acheron to the shark in Jaws: in both cases the nature of the monster is always suggested or rumoured rather than shown or explained, and the terror that results from withholding it increases our involvement in the story. The men respond to the Acheron and the subsequent calamities which befall the Surprise in a variety of interesting ways. Some trust stoically in the Captain, while others grumble and look to Hollom as a scapegoat.

    As with The Truman Show, the great success of Master and Commander is that it is able to explore all these complex ideas and relationships whilst all the time remaining light-hearted and enjoyable. It's a classic case of what Weir does best, combining intense and intelligent character drama with a warm and welcoming sense of humour.

    On the one hand, we have the discussions surrounding Hollom, who is branded 'the Jonah' by the crew and blamed for the lack of rain. The pressure on Hollom becomes so great that he believes himself to be cursed, and ultimately takes his own life to escape the pain. On the other hand, we have the 'two weevils' sequence, which is worth the price of admission alone. Aubrey plays a witty joke on Maturin and we find ourselves chuckling with as much mirth as the drunken sailors. The fact that we laugh as much as them shows that Weir has completely immersed us in the period, so that something we would normally consider poor becomes the funniest thing in the world.

    On top of its substance, the film is visually ravishing. Russell Boyd's cinematography is so great that you can almost feel the salt running over your skin as the waves smash against the deck. On several occasions the camera lingers on an object, like the scale model of the Acheron or the doctor's notebook, and captures them in exquisite detail like a still life. The intimate dining room scenes with the open candles are like a brighter, more mirth-ridden version of Barry Lyndon, and the interior scenes in general are reminiscent of the work of Peter Greenaway, in their composition and artful nature.

    Weir is a great director when it comes to crowd sequences, really knowing how to construct shots involving dozens of people in which every single character on screen appears to be doing something important and self-motivated. The scenes with the native boats, or any shots of the whole deck, look meticulously planned and yet very organic, with no-one just idly wandering into shot. The battle scenes are frenetic and tense, with the close camerawork putting us on deck with the characters and Richard King's sound effects editing brilliantly replicating the atmosphere of gunfire.

    For all these plus points, there are a couple of troubling weaknesses. The first is that, despite being shorter than both Gladiator and The Return of the King, the film is not as disciplined as one might expect. Weir's direction of individual scenes is solid and meticulous, but both the very beginning and very ending of the film feel rather loose. Compared to The Truman Show, in which every single shot felt the perfect length and full of meaning, little sections in this do run on for too long, such as the extent of the crew's conversations about 'the Jonah'.

    Like several other book-to-film adaptations, it feels like a lot of information has been compressed into one film. This manages to do a better job than Brideshead Revisited or some of the Harry Potter films, since it lifts chapters from several of O'Brian's novels. But the result of this is not just that purists may be offended, but that the ending is rather weak and open. It's as though Weir and his producers were unsure whether or not they wanted this to have a sequel (which Weir eventually ruled out in 2005 due to the film's lower-than-expected takings).

    Despite these little problems, you can't really fault Master and Commander as either a romping action film or a faithfully complex adaptation of the much-loved books. It remains focussed on its characters throughout, is meticulously written and shot, and is a very accessible film which can be enjoyed whatever one's mood. The small flaws are generally forgivable in light of its obvious strengths, coupled with fine supporting performances by David Threlfall and Billy Boyd. It's not up there with The Truman Show, but it's still a solid effort, which bodes well for Weir's upcoming return.

Critic Reviews

Derek Adams
June 24, 2006
Derek Adams, Time Out

Thanks in no small measure to Perfect Storm designer William Sandell, this handsomely mounted actioner exudes the authentic tang of salt, sweat and gunpowder. Full Review

Peter Rainer
August 7, 2004
Peter Rainer, New York Magazine/Vulture

It never achieves the visual elegance or majesty that a David Lean might have provided. The story line isn't the freshest. And yet the film is satisfying all the same. Full Review

Rex Reed
November 25, 2003
Rex Reed, New York Observer

If this is the stuff that rings the bell on your macho meter, go with my blessing. Full Review

Andrew Sarris
November 25, 2003
Andrew Sarris, New York Observer

To put it plainly, two ships playing tag across the seas is no longer my idea of whoopee, especially at a time when grown-ups are popping up all over the screen with uncensored stories of the eternal ... Full Review

Stephanie Zacharek
November 15, 2003
Stephanie Zacharek,

A gentleman's action movie. Full Review

Mike Clark
November 14, 2003
Mike Clark, USA Today

A plain old good movie. Full Review

Peter Howell
November 14, 2003
Peter Howell, Toronto Star

Considering how cinema-unfriendly O'Brian was - the author rarely went to the movies, and had to be persuaded to release the film rights -- Master & Commander manages to loosen the shackles of its dry... Full Review

Moira MacDonald
November 14, 2003
Moira MacDonald, Seattle Times

Russell Crowe swaggers marvelously in the seafaring adventure Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World. Full Review

Glenn Lovell
November 14, 2003
Glenn Lovell, San Jose Mercury News

For the most part, this epic adventure steers a true course through storm and sacrifice, and arrives triumphant. Full Review

Mick LaSalle
November 14, 2003
Mick LaSalle, San Francisco Chronicle

The film contains brilliantly crafted scenes and shots that are as compelling as anything seen onscreen this year, but there are also dull stretches in which the movie seems lightweight -- never in it... Full Review

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    • Dr. Stephen Maturin: Jack, I fear you have burdened me with a debt I can never fully repay.
    • Captain Jack Aubrey: Name a shrub after me. Something prickly and hard to eradicate.
    • Dr. Stephen Maturin: A shrub? Nonsense! I shall name a new species of tortoise after you: Testudo Aubrey!

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  • Quote: "You came to the wrong ship for anarchy, brother." Name the movie.  Answer »
  • Which actor is in the following movies: *Gladiator *Cinderella Man *A Beautiful Mind *Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World  Answer »
  • " Master and Commander : The Far Side of the World " has nominated for 10 academy awards, but how many one it won ?  Answer »
  • Was " Russell Crowe " won any academy award for his role in " Master and Commander : The Far Side of the World " ?  Answer »

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