Master and Commander

release year: 2003
genre: seaborne action/drama
viewing setting: theater, 11/29/03

synopsis: It's 1805, and after his British warship almost gets destroyed by a bigger French ship, a commander makes it his mission to find and beat that bigger ship, no matter what the cost.

impressions: This is probably the best effort to date to show audiences what it was actually like to live and fight (and die) on a seaborne warship several hundred years ago. Consider: a broken arm quickly gets infected and must be amputated. That's the earliest and strongest example I can cite to give you the general idea. While this is a good high-seas adventure, it's also a grim tale of the realities of this sort of life, back in those days. Bugs in the bread, no showers, limited food and medicine, potential mutiny, bullying - all of these and more show up in-between the glamorous moments and the battles. Still, this is a good movie, especially when it has two ships side-by-side thundering away at one another with heavy cannon.

things to watch for: The two big battles, near the beginning and near the end. Both are highly chaotic and violent.

something this movie has that no other movie has: Amputation of broken arm due to infection.

acting: Russell Crowe is great as a leader who must make hard choices and demand sacrifices. Paul Bettany is outstanding as the doctor, who is also a scientist but sees both of his professions take second place to the need for battle. Other noteworthy performances are turned in by the kid whose arm gets amputated (which only makes him stronger as a seaman and a warrior) and the young officer who can't earn the respect of the crew.

final word: Definitely the most realistic movie to date about life and war on the high seas.

back to the main review page