Peter Weir’s brilliantly realised Napoleonic period piece follows the travails of a British frigate after a bruising encounter with a French warship in the south Atlantic.
Adapted from a collection of novels from the late Patrick O’Brian, the film pays loving attention to detail, examining the skill and the often-miserable lot of the lowly common seaman during the 19th century.
Russell Crowe is at his very best as Captain “Lucky Jack” Aubrey, a man wrestling with his duty as master of a vessel in the fleet of George III and his conscience when those duties cost the lives of his crew.
Russell Boyd, who worked with Weir on Gallipoli, captures the cramped, claustrophobic nature of ship’s life with a keen eye and pans out wide with some memorable vistas on the Galapagos Islands. Paul Bettany is excellent as the Darwin-esque botanist /ship’s surgeon who is confidante and contrarian to Crowe’s captain.
This is a thoroughly enjoyable yarn and a beautifully realised piece of cinema, which though it loses some of its impact in transferring to the small screen is still very much pick of today’s films.
Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World – Wednesday 6.15pm on Film4