Reviewed by: Jay Levitz
Fear, Anxiety and Worry… What does the Bible say? Answer
How could Jonah survive three days in the belly of a “whale”? Answer
Charles Darwin—Was he a Christian? Did he believe in God? Did he recant Evolutionism when he died? Answer
Can genetic mutations produce positive changes in living creatures? Answer
Does God really exist? How can we know? If God made everything, who made God? Answer
Where did life come from? Is Evolution really the best scientific answer? Answer
What does the fossil record teach us about Evolution? Answer
Starring: Russell Crowe, Paul Bettany, Ian Mercer, James D'Arcy, John Desantis | Directed by: Peter Weir | Produced by: Samuel Goldwyn Jr., Peter Weir, Duncan Henderson | Written by: Peter Weir, John Collee | Distributor: 20th Century Fox
Five years ago, director Peter Weir pitted Jim Carrey against a god-like television producer named Christo in “The Truman Show”, which ended with Carrey facing his greatest fears by launching his boat on a studio-based “ocean.” For “Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World”, based on two historical novels by Patrick O'Brian, Weir begins his film on the ocean and doesn’t let his characters feel land under their feet until nearly two hours into this epic adventure.
Fear is a continual hazard for both Truman and the 197 souls living and working on an English naval ship off the Brazilian coast during the Napoleonic Wars in 1803, when England battled France for control of the seas. (Learn more about conquering fear.) However, the ship’s master and commander is Captain “Lucky” Jack Aubrey (Russell Crowe), who seems fearless as he pushes his crew beyond their duty, leading them past the treacherous waters around Cape Horn in order to capture a larger and stronger French warship.
Aubrey presses on while watching his crew suffer many deaths, including one suicide, and endure various bloody injuries. Even Aubrey is tempted to fear his own passion when his lone confidante, Dr. Stephen Maturin (Paul Bettany), dares to ask: Will Aubrey’s zeal lead them all to their doom?
Actors Crowe and newcomer Bettany serve the story well in their roles as brilliant opposite-types, the former a predator and the latter a peace-loving naturalist with an additional scientific motive for visiting South America.
For one officer, hard circumstances and the crew’s superstitious gossip leads him to believe he has “cursed” his own ship and direct references to the biblical story of Jonah abound. (Learn more about Jonah.)
Disturbing images include one character’s suicide, a drowning, a brain surgery, the amputation of an arm, and one man performing his own painful surgery. In addition, there is some profanity used that is intended to mimic sailors’ speech. Battle scenes are realistic, and many people are shown being stabbed or shot. The gore content is not excessive, though it may seem so as you watch the faces and hear the heavy breathing of those who are suffering.
Above all, the filmmakers have strived to create a realistic picture of life aboard an English warship, and they have succeeded amazingly. The credits list the same special effects workshop, WETA, that is used for “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy. All the elements, including some intricately-staged battle sequences, are so realistic that it’s difficult to tell whether special effects were used at all.
This film is an ideal experience for young men on their way to manhood, as they will see some role models with admirable qualities, particularly Crowe’s Captain Aubrey and Bettany’s, as well as a pre-teen midshipman who learns from each of them. Since there are no female characters, women may find less reasons to become engaged in this story.
In one scene, Evolution is alluded to, as Dr. Maturin and his protege discuss insects. The doctor explains that the insect they are studying has “disguised itself” (by changing its appearance to look like the tree where it rests) in order to protect itself from predators. The pupil asks, “Did God make them change?” The doctor responds, “Certainly yes—but do they also change themselves? That is the question.” (To learn more about Evolution, click here.) Charles Darwin traveled to the same area where this film is set and based his theory of Evolution on the animals found in “Master and Commander”.
Though this film is PG-13, parents should be very mindful of their own children’s temperaments before daring to show them “Master and Commander”. Particularly alarming is the way younger characters suffer, though, no doubt, the film is realistic. Squeamish adults may have a difficult time as well. This reviewer attended the film with a fortysomething man who, at one point, seemed to be hiding his eyes behind a jacket.
Peter Weir has co-written and directed one of the best adventure films of this or any other decade, and, if you can handle watching some intense warfare and surgery, there are many rewards to be found in “Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World”.