The swashbuckler movie returns in this adventure from the best-selling novels by Patrick OBrian. Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World uses two of the books from the authors 20-volume Aubrey/ Maturin series, named for its two principal characters. With Academy Award winner, Russell Crowe as its star, Peter Weir - who has three Best Director Oscar nominations under his belt - calling the shots, and Paul Bettany, Crowes co-star in A Beautiful Mind joining him again, the film fires with real cannon power.
Set during the Napoleonic Wars, it opens on board, HMS Surprise, and rarely leaves it. Crowe plays the captain, Lucky Jack Aubrey, who has orders to intercept, sink burn or take the French Privateer, the Acheron. An attack on Surprise by the Acheron, which appears, phantom-like out the fog, alerts Aubrey to the superiority of the more modern enemy vessel. The Surprise is badly damaged but Aubrey is determined to hunt down the Acheron - and the chase is on, taking the crew from the coast of Brazil, through treacherous Cape Horn, to the Galapagos Islands and beyond.
Aubreys close friend on board is ship doctor, Stephen Maturin (Bettany). These two literally play beautiful music together, with Aubrey on violin (shades of Sherlock Holmes!) and Maturin on cello, but overall, theirs is a relationship that seems strengthened by the differences between the man of war and the man of science. There is an upset in that friendship, when Maturin begins to question Aubreys doggedness in tracking down the Acheron, suggesting that he may be seeking glory rather than simply carrying out a duty that he has far exceeded. The tension between them is heightened when they land on The Galapagos and Aubrey cuts short Maturins unique opportunity to study the flora and fauna by taking up the chase again. Ironically, the doctors pursuit of the mysteries of nature - in particular the deception that allows various creatures to survive through camouflage - later inspire Aubrey in his pursuit of the enemy.
Among the sub-plots is one involving the disquiet that grows among the crew when they believe that an inexperienced midshipman, Hollom (Lee Ingleby) is bringing bad luck to the ship. In another, the film shows us that not all on board these ships were men through the fate of 12-year-old midshipman, Lord Blakeney (Max Pirkis) who learns very early about the sacrifices of war.
With its meticulous attention to detail, Weirs film is an extraordinary recreation of shipboard life, another chance for Russell Crowe to flex his acting muscles and take command of his role - superbly complemented by Paul Bettany and an excellent supporting crew - a rousing adventure (watch for that storm on the Cape!), and a trip into the past.
Trivia: This is only feature film to have been shot on The Galapagos.