Tuesday, May 6, 2014
Master and Commander: Far Side of the World (2003)
Master And Commander
starts with a bang, but can't keep pace with the intensity of its first half.
Peter Weir (The Year of Living Dangerously, The Mosquito Coast) is one of my all-time favorite directors. It's too bad he seldom works anymore, with only one feature since this good 2003 release.
It's April 1805. Napoleon is master of Europe. Capt. Jack Aubrey is commander of a British frigate, HMS Suprise. The British captain is well-accustomed to success, but his ship gets pounded twice by a powerful French opponent, Acheron. That doesn't make Aubrey very happy.
His best friend, and ship surgeon, Dr. Stephen Maturin (Paul Bettany) is Bones to Aubrey's Capt. Kirk. Should Aubrey be demanding to track his foe down, far beyond the orders from his government? Will his men break because of the physical and mental strain they're under to make Aubrey's goal of destroying the French ship happen?
Good questions, for sure, as is the film's depiction of the younger members of Aubrey's crew.
But this film starts to go off the rails about an hour in when Master And Commander brings in a subplot about a midshipman, Hollom (Lee Ingleby), who isn't respected by the crew. Some suggest it's Hollom who has cursed the ship to the beatings by the French ship and dearth of wind and hot weather. Then we get Maturin eager to spend time at the Galapagos Islands to find what animal species exist there. So, Maturin gives Aubrey a hard time for putting his men in danger on a military mission, while Maturin wants to get glory for himself as the British seaman who discovers new life. Discuss.
Two major battle scenes are gripping as ships exchange cannon fire. There's hand-to-hand combat too. Be prepared to get a little queasy.
Russell Boyd (Crocodile Dundee, Phar Lap) won an Oscar for best cinematography. There are some very fine images here. Too bad the film itself wasn't a little better.
FUN FACTS: Lee Ingleby was Gustave in Ever After: A Cinderella Story.
Paul Bettany starred alongside Russell Crowe is A Beautiful Mind.
Reel Popcorn Junkie is a reporter with a newspaper in the province of Ontario in Canada. He began writing film reviews when he was a student at Brock University in St. Catharines, Ont. Reel Popcorn Junkie continues to write entertainment copy for a daily newspaper, but not film reviews. Reel Popcorn Junkie always orders a regular popcorn, with no butter, when he attends the cinema.