Master and Commander
The Far Side of the World
Review by Ross Anthony

First and foremost, this is a sea vessel film. At the most, 10% of the picture takes place on solid ground. Most of the time, it's a two ship show, one chasing the other. A British war ship vs. one of Napoleon's circa 1805, but that's relatively irrelevant. More prominent and up front is Captain Jack's (Crowe's) personal one on one with the illusive and apt enemy in a superior craft. Additionally, a very interesting plot thickener just barely breaks surface -- a gradually festering difference of opinion between Jack and his best friend -- the ship's talented physician Dr. Maturin (Paul Bettany).

Jack is deadset on giving chase to the larger better-gunned Napoleon ship despite decreasing odds. The good doctor insists retreat would be the more responsible choice, besides, by chance, they've found themselves along the shores of the scientifically fascinating Galapagos.

Unfortunately, this thickening plot line is truncated and never satisfactorily attended to again. Though the means of truncation is sincere, the consequence is a rather drab climax.

Most of the acting is strong, the action unglamorous and respectably true; however, the scripts dialogue leaves much to be desired in the entertainment department.

Still, with such strong direction, cinematography and the steadfast chin of Crowe, the film could have made B+. Unfortunately, it endures a few other errors. The initial shot of the Galapagos fits sidewise across an otherwise well-edited picture; in fact the whole Galapagos engagement integrates poorly. (I just don't buy the good doctor endeavoring to walk 20 miles.)

But the greatest improvement would have been to continue the vibrant debate -- destruction in the name of security vs. science in the name of salvaging.

Also, a little humor would have helped -- and though it may have been funny 200 years ago, the weevil joke doesn't float in 2003.

The young officers worked well, the Jonah bit didn't.

  • Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World. Copyright © 2003.
  • Starring Russell Crowe, Paul Bettany, James D'Arcy, Edward Woodall, Cris Larkin.
  • Screenplay and Directed by Peter Weir.
  • Based on the novels by Patrick O'Brian.
  • Produced by Samuel Goldwyn, Jr., P Weir, Duncan Henderson at 20th Cent Fox/Uniersal/Miramax.

Grade..........................B (2/4)

Copyright © 2001. Ross Anthony, currently based in Los Angeles, has scripted and shot documentaries, music videos, and shorts in 35 countries across North America, Europe, Africa and Asia. For more reviews visit:

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Last Modified: Saturday, 16-Sep-2006 08:03:13 PDT