Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World (2003)

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Starring: Russell Crowe, Paul Bettany, Billy Boyd, James D’Arcy, Chris Larkin, Edward Woodall, Robert Pugh, Max Benitz, Max Pirkis

Director: Peter Weir

Summary: During the Napoleonic Wars, a brash British captain pushes his ship and his crew to their limits in pursuit of a French war vessel around South America

Other Nominations: Director, Sound Editing*, Sound Mixing, Art Direction, Cinematography*, Makeup, Costume Design, Film Editing, Visual Effects

Filming a movie on a boat sucks; filming a movie on a boat with loads of child actors (who are bound by child labor laws in terms of how many hours they can work) REALLY sucks, yet the filmmakers really were committed to an level of authenticity and technical detail about turn of the 19th century naval warfare that does justice to the novels it’s based on and pulls no punches. There are a lot of strong points here-the action sequences are exciting and well-executed, Jack Aubrey (Crowe) borrows a lot from genre tropes but is still a very likable, flawed main character and Crowe’s performance is great, and the cinematography is interesting. It’s distinctive because you get a lot of dutch angles that slowly rock back and forth, simulating being on a ship in a way. The weakest part of the movie is the narrative, which follows a lot of expected territory (the captain has his white whale, there’s the threat of mutiny because the captain is stretching everybody too thin working for his own ends), but even if it’s nothing groundbreaking it’s not outright bad or anything. Ultimately, this is a film I probably admire more than anything else about it because of the clear effort, thought and craftsmanship that went into making it, but the narrative, characters and action are good enough for me to recommend it.

Rating: B

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