Master and Commander:
The Far Side of the World
A Film Review By Jason L. King
|Rating: Rated PG-13 for intense battle sequences, related images, and brief language. Runtime
Starring: Russell Crowe, Paul Bettany
Directed By:Peter Weir
A few nights ago, I found myself sitting around chatting with an old friend about Hollywood, films and just random movie garp. Of course once again the topic of Best picture and Oscars came into play which is something that starts to fill the minds of movie geeks nationwide come November and December. Now while the old friend rattled off a list of films that may be well deserving of an Oscar nod, she failed to note the one thing that the Oscars have become just like everything else in the world: Political. Hollywood has fallen to corruption as well, and the Oscars are not safe from it either. Many times the best film of the year is overlooked because it is not “the image” the Oscars are promoting at this time period. Sometimes the true best picture has to step out of the way for the bigger budget film that although is good, just doesn’t quite deserve the prize.
Two-time Oscar Winner Russell Crowe returns to the big screen with Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World. The big budget blockbuster is based off of a series by Patrick O’Brian; in which there are a mere total of 20 Books in the Master and Commander Series. Our movie picks up surprisingly midway through the series at what I believe is Book #10 (I’m sad to report I have not read the series, but have heard very good things, so if you are the “reading type” go check them out.) The audience is introduced to the great Captain “Lucky” Jack Aubrey in the time of the Napoleon Wars as he and his loyal crew has orders to destroy a much larger and faster French Ship. But amidst their struggle to find the ship, the tables are turned, and the ship finds them instead during a surprise attack. Now Aubrey and his friend and loyal Surgeon and naturalist, Stephen Maturin, must decide whether to take their battle wounded ship back to the England homeland and admit defeat or follow the French ship to the far side of the world and carry out their orders. It’s been a while since we have seen a big budget “sea” tale in the box offices and so I was surprised to see Russell Crowe making one on the big screen. The curse of tales of boats, water and ships “tanking” on the big screen has plagued movie makers for quite sometime, and very few times do we find cases where “water movies” stay afloat in the box office. The curse may be breaking with the successes of Pirates of The Caribbean and Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World. 20th Century Fox went to the extremes in making this film, and I believe actually got 2 other major motion picture companies to help fund this big budget project. But the question is whether or not the movie was worth the money.
I can honestly say I had a good time at Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World. Initially I had thought of an evil plot to write a review for the movie making fun of it for it’s incredibly large title (and for it’s webpage, which is located at www.masterancommanderthefarsideoftheworld.com). Maybe those jokes are just funny to me though. But in actuality I don’t have a lot of complaints about the film.
Just like the title, the film suffers from “too long” syndrome, and it’s 2 Hour and 20 plus minute runtime could have easily been cut down by at least 20-30 minutes and most people wouldn’t have cared. The plot wouldn’t have suffered a great deal and it would have kept the story moving along at a little more rapid pace. Now don’t get me wrong it doesn’t drag along at “Kevin Costner film Pace” but it has its share of somewhat “dry” moments. The film also suffers from a few minor character problems. Although it is easy to keep out main characters, Crowe and Bettany, apart from the rest, many of the other shipmates all look very similar and it is hard to keep the from becoming one big blur of swashbuckling sailors rather than the “loyal subjects” the movie was trying to portray them as.
On the more positive side, Russell Crowe was perfectly chosen for the role, and his on screen antics help make this film a success. But it isn’t because Crowe is a “superb” actor, it’s because the man has learned to find roles “that fit” him so well. As for his co-star Paul Bettany, who co-stared with Crowe in his Last Oscar film, A Beautiful Mind, I didn’t find Bettany to be as much of an important part of the film. His character could have been better played out by another actor, but Bettany and Crowe work together fairly well to make things work out.
Director Peter Weir does a nice job of bringing the life of the ocean and 1800’s naval battles back to life but his sequences sometimes felt to cluttered to me, too much going on that the camera just couldn’t quite capture the full spirit of it all. On the opposite end, sometimes there was just too little going on, and the film felt like it was going to fall flat on it’s face before quickly picking the pace back up again.
In the end, this really isn’t the film of the year, but you will hear many a critic say so. It was nicely cast, and did a nice job of Breathing life into the once drowning “water movie” genre but in the end this film has it’s flaws. The real question however is if the Academy is willing to look over those flaws and flaunt their Oscar Poster boy, Russell Crowe for one more go-round. While there are better films out there, that are more concise, straightforward and well done, I have a feeling this is going to become an Oscar favorite. And rest assured if it becomes a moviegoer favorite expect Russell Crowe to return to the silver screen as Lucky Jack Aubrey…after all they only have 19 more books to adapt to the big screen…