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Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World

The Strength of a Nation Depended on the Courage of a Few 

Year: 2003 
Running Time:
Aspect Ratio: Unknown 
Certificate: BBFC 12A Cert – Under 12s admitted only with an adult 
Subtitles: The level of subtitling in this film is unknown to WSC 
Directed by Unknown 
Starring: Unknown  
An image from Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World

The film is basically about one ship trying to capture another. Or at least that's what the film poses as. In fact the story is vastly more interesting carrying the audience through the exploits of Captain Jack Aubrey (Crowe) and his crew as they experience all the rigors of life at sea during the Napoleonic Wars.

It may be tempting to think that this film is simply 'Gladiator on the high seas', but nothing could be further from the truth. Though it was undoubtedly Crowe's involvement in this film that brought the attention of the world, it is, thankfully, not about Crowe at all. If Russell Crowe believes himself to be the best actor in the world, he still has a long way to go to prove it to the rest of us, and his performance in this film does him no favours being overshadowed by the stirring performance of the understated Bettany.

But Master and Commander, far from being about Crowe's ego, is about the sea and the way man relates to it. The ships themselves take on characters of their own, positively speaking through each creak and groan as the ship's hull battles against the elements. The audience is led to feel the ships pain as each cannon ball rips through it, but equally to feel its joy as it glides and leaps across the pounding waves.

This film is beautifully crafted in its depiction of sea. The rolling waves and tranquil periods of calm. The wind and water engaging so subtly with the ship. One of the most powerful scenes in the movie is to watch the ship sailing through a storm. As the waves and the spray wrap around the ship and toss it about, we are shown a beautiful picture of man's place in the world - much as we would like to think it, man doesn't control nature, we can  only sit a top, immersed by the majesty of creation.

This film is strangely pleasing in that it is not a Hollywood one-man-against-the-world film but carries a much more satisfyingly British feel of a crew facing the realities of war at sea, and most of all, facing them together.

Thomas Gaston

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Screenings of this film:

2003/2004 Spring Term (35mm)
2003/2004 Spring Term (35mm)