Jump to content

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


Recommended Posts

master.jpg

No details until release date, as sworn...

...except to say that the film did not disappoint me. In fact, it's the finest high seas film I've seen.

Any O'Brian fans here? I've never read any of his novels, but this movie sure makes me want to read more about Aubrey and his men.

Man... Weir is a fine filmmaker. Favorites?

P.S.  I COULD BE WRONG.

 

Takin' 'er easy for all you sinners at lookingcloser.org. Also abiding at Facebook and Twitter.

 

Link to post
Share on other sites
  • Replies 66
  • Created
  • Last Reply

Top Posters In This Topic

I like Weir quite a bit. I really appreciate the mystery and the unknown that find prominent places in my favs - Picnic at Hanging Rock, Fearless, and The Year of Living Dangerously.

His films have led me to consider, among other things, what it means to encounter that which I don't understand, that which is strange to me. And as I've thought about it, to fulfill our great commandment as Christians to love God and love neighbor, we must be willing to encounter that which may not at first make sense to us. For if we simply reject it, then we prevent ourselves from carrying out our greatest purpose on this planet.

To those who have already seen his upcoming film, I am envious. It has been one of my most eagerly anticipated films all year.

All great art is pared down to the essential.
--Henri Langlois

 

Movies are not barium enemas, you're not supposed to get them over with as quickly as possible.

--James Gray

Link to post
Share on other sites

I'm relieved to hear your vague praise, Jeffrey. As one who's read and greatly enjoyed the 20-book Aubrey/Maturin series, I was worried that the film would bungle it.

O'Brian is a master of detail -- history, nature, politics, geography, and of course, plenty of nautical bits -- in whose books the characters and stories develop gradually and subtly. I loved these books and came to care deeply about the people involved in them, not only Aubrey and Maturin but the large supporting cast that we encounter repeatedly in the saga.

To be an artist is never to avert one's eyes.
- Akira Kurosawa

https://www.patheos.com/blogs/secularcinephile/

Link to post
Share on other sites

I've heard that this movie is part of the actual Master and Commander novel fused with the conclusion of yet another novel in the series. So I'm sure there will be a hailstorm of protest from the book devotees, just as there continues to be with Lord of the Rings.

(And yes, Tolkien fans, wait until you see the couple of massive changes that Jackson is going to ask us to accept THIS time!)

But not knowing was a blessing for me with this film. While it suffers a bit from the Manly Men Being Men and Telling Boys and Younger Men How to Be Manly format, and while a library of submarine films have made several of these high seas crises a little too familiar, there is such an earnestness to the film, an unshowy professionalism and sincerity, that I was reminded of the pleasures of pure cinematic storytelling. Weir has no interest in indulging our appetites or showing off new tricks. He just gets the job done.

Speaking of Tolkien... very weird to see Billy Boyd in another major role. Will he ever be anything but Pippin to us?

P.S.  I COULD BE WRONG.

 

Takin' 'er easy for all you sinners at lookingcloser.org. Also abiding at Facebook and Twitter.

 

Link to post
Share on other sites

Jeffrey Overstreet wrote:

: Speaking of Tolkien... very weird to see Billy Boyd in another major role.

: Will he ever be anything but Pippin to us?

Wait a minute. You mean, between Boyd and Bloom, that now makes TWO former unknowns who have followed up their lucky break in Lord of the Rings with films about going to sea in ye olden days?

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Yup. And he's fine in the part, although it's not a complicated part. He's got this great scar under his right eye in this film, but it doesn't do much to keep us from thinking, "Hey, there's Pippin again. Tall Pippin!"

P.S.  I COULD BE WRONG.

 

Takin' 'er easy for all you sinners at lookingcloser.org. Also abiding at Facebook and Twitter.

 

Link to post
Share on other sites

I'm glad the movie is good. In anticipation I read Far Side of the World (book 10 I think in the series) this summer. But when I've seen trailers, I've been left wondering what the film had to do with the book. Perhaps it is more in tune with Master and Commander. I've heard that O'Brian fans are somewhat displeased with much about the film. The joining of two widely different books in the series. The casting of Crowe (Aubrey is a bit on the portly side.)

ALthough the sea story does seem made to order for Weir and his penchant for putting people in situations where they are out of their element.

A foreign movie can't be stupid.

-from the film
Armin

Link to post
Share on other sites

I'm so glad to hear this is good. I'm looking forward to it. I've long been a big fan of Witness and I thought Truman Show as better than most said it was.

Weir strikes me as an Existentialist who leaves room for God. And I like that. It seems he and Kierkegaard would have gotten along swimmingly.

Link to post
Share on other sites

FWIW, the film has more references to Christianity, more prayer, and more positive portrayals of men of faith than any of his films since Witness. (In fact, I'd argue it is more positive about faith than even that film.)

And regarding "portly" Aubrey, Crowe's not exactly thin in this film. I thought he looked like he'd bulked up quite a bit.

P.S.  I COULD BE WRONG.

 

Takin' 'er easy for all you sinners at lookingcloser.org. Also abiding at Facebook and Twitter.

 

Link to post
Share on other sites

I like Weir quite a bit. I really appreciate the mystery and the unknown that find prominent places in my favs - Picnic at Hanging Rock, Fearless, and The Year of Living Dangerously.

I haven't seen "Dangerously," but I'll add the mystical "The Last Wave" to the list.

One Weir film I really don't care for is "Dead Poets Society," a messy film that many of my friends admire.

"What matters are movies, not awards; experiences, not celebrations; the subjective power of individual critical points of view, not the declamatory compromises of consensus." - Richard Brody, "Godard's Surprise Win Is a Victory for Independent Cinema," The New Yorker

Link to post
Share on other sites

Any O'Brian fans here? I've never read any of his novels, but this movie sure makes me want to read more about Aubrey and his men.  

Man... Weir is a fine filmmaker. Favorites?

I have many friends & acquaintances who think O'Brian is one of the two or three best historical novelists of the later 20th century (the other two candidates--Dorothy Dunnett & Mary Renault). I've tried to read his books & couldn't make much headway, but maybe it was all the sailing jargon. I should probably try again. I certainly intend to see the movie.

My Peter Weir favorites--Gallipoli, Witness, The Truman Show.

There is this difference between the growth of some human beings and that of others: in the one case it is a continuous dying, in the other a continuous resurrection. (George MacDonald, The Princess and Curdie)

Isn't narrative structure enough of an ideology for art? (Greg Wright)

Link to post
Share on other sites
I have many friends & acquaintances who think O'Brian is one of the two or three best historical novelists of the later 20th century (the other two candidates--Dorothy Dunnett & Mary Renault).  I've tried to read his books & couldn't make much headway, but maybe it was all the sailing jargon.  I should probably try again.  I certainly intend to see the movie.
The one book I read didn't quicken my heart as I picked it up each night. Like you said, the sailing jargon and even the way the navy worked at that time just sort of went over my head. There was also a lot of back story that I didn't know since I was in the middle of the series.
A foreign movie can't be stupid.

-from the film
Armin

Link to post
Share on other sites

That belongs on another thread, Scott, so I'll post something there soon. Keep watch.

And by the way, Jeffrey Wells today is raving about Master and Commander, so I guess the barrier is breaking and we can start talking about it. He says:

I recommend this to all guys out there as a girlfriend character-indicator thing. If she says she'd rather not see this film, or if she sees it and goes "naah...not for me," dump her. Really. The same way you should dump any girl who doesn't like to go camping because she's afraid of bugs or something.

He also says:

MASTER AND COMMANDER is from the great Australian director Peter Weir. It's clearly his best film since WITNESS, and apparently his most physically ambitious ever. Of all Weir's first-rate films (and he really killed from PICNIC AT HANGING ROCK in '75 until his last good one, DEAD POET'S SOCIETY, in '89), it probably most resembles GALLIPOLI in terms of the male camaraderie thing and the anti-war leanings.

A day later, here are my SPOILER-FREE thoughts (and forgive those that are redundant with my earlier post):

I'm giving the film an A-, and at this point I still think Fearless is a better Weir film. (It's at least a braver one when it comes to the risks he takes as a storyteller.) Master and Commander is not the typical philosophical Weir film punctuated by bursts of action; it's more like an action film punctuated by bursts of Weir philosophizing. I'm not sure it'll be in my top ten at the end of the year, but it's close.

Who'da thunk we would see two creaky battleships pull up alongside each other, one on each side of the screen, firing at close range with lines of cannons... TWICE this year on the big screen? And what are the odds BOTH movies would be good? Strange.

And while it suffers a bit from being another Men Being Manly and Teaching Boys and Men How to Be Manly film, Weir's got another feather in his cap with this one. It's the finest seafaring film I've seen, except perhaps Das Boot, and boasts another great performance by Russell Crowe (although Paul Bettany's supporting performance equals and perhaps surpasses it.)

The action is spectacular. I have not felt so immersed in a high-seas screen environment before. This film makes CGI water in other films look far less convincing. Nothing like the real thing. (Although I've read that some of these shots ARE CGI, which blows my mind.) Show me which ones!

Regarding violence: The violence in this film is harder to watch than the violence in Kill Bill. It's realistic, for one thing. There are a few emergency surgery scenes that had me digging my fingers into the arm rest of the chair and gritting my teeth. Ow.

There are strong visual echoes of Gallipoli (one that I suspect was deliberate), Dead Poet's Society, and a thematic connection to The Mosquito Coast... a theme that seems to pop up in all Weir films, really.

And there is a moment here that gave me a chill of dread I haven't felt since the Imperial Walkers were first spotted through Rebel binoculars.

I was surprised at the amount of God-talk in the film. Bettany plays the ship's doctor, a man who is both fascinated by the idea of evolution and yet does not disagree that the changes that come about in creatures are caused by both their own efforts and God.

The closer it gets to the end, the more predictable it becomes, and one scene that is supposed to play like a major twist near the end is unfortunately painfully forseeable. But the film is not about surprises. It's mostly about characters, about the corrupting nature of power, the difference between duty and personal agenda, the tendency to take God's good gifts and immediately put them to use in violent ways... there's a lot to talk about, and the conversations are allowed to stretch on just long enough to haunt us afterwards.

One subplot, regarding an uncomfortable officer who is disrespected by his peers, does not carry the weight it clearly is supposed to carry. And it too ends predictably. But again, the actors and the dialogue keep it from sinking the film.

I was surprised at just how obviously the film is availing itself to a sequel. There are not major loose ends, but we get this sense that this is just the beginning for many of these characters, and I do hope to see them again. Bettany and Crowe have good chemistry. And there's a very young actor, the blonde kid you saw in the preview, who is very very good. He's never made to seem "cute"; he is treated as seriously as the grownups, and you get the feeling that he may emerge as an even more formidable seaman than Crowe's Aubrey.

Finally, I've got to comment on the soundtrack. Wells compliments the film composer, but most of the film's musical impact comes from Variations on a Theme by Thomas Tallis, one of my favorite pieces of classical music. It is used very effectively. I'll bet it was Weir's idea; you couldn't ask for more sombre hues of drama and historical significance than that. An Oscar nomination for the late Thomas Tallis may be in order.

Edited by Overstreet

P.S.  I COULD BE WRONG.

 

Takin' 'er easy for all you sinners at lookingcloser.org. Also abiding at Facebook and Twitter.

 

Link to post
Share on other sites

Are people deliberately avoiding discussion of THE MOSQUITO COAST? Because, to me, that film represented Weir's best work... (of the stuff I've seen.... so not including YEAR, GALLIPOLI, and PICNIC).

Nick

Nick Alexander

Keynote, Worship Leader, Comedian, Parodyist

Host of the Prayer Meeting Podcast - your virtual worship oasis. (Subscribe)

Link to post
Share on other sites

I love Mosquito Coast, and I still think it boasts one of Ford's finest performances. It also has River Phoenix, which gives any film an unfair advantage. Unfortunately, the shrill portrayal of the evangelist (Andre Gregory) gives the film a bad aftertaste. But there is some great work in that film. It also bears the odd distinction of being a film in which Harrison Ford and Helen Mirren are a married couple... one of the strangest movie marital matches I can think of, and yet it worked.

P.S.  I COULD BE WRONG.

 

Takin' 'er easy for all you sinners at lookingcloser.org. Also abiding at Facebook and Twitter.

 

Link to post
Share on other sites

Thanks for the additional details, Jeffrey. I can't wait to see it now, though I'm mystified (not peeved) as to why the screenplay writer is drawing from the first and a much later book for key aspects of the plot, and even for the title, for that matter.

Regarding the original O'Brian books: FWIW, I found the first two in the series to be slow going, while the next several ones were much more engrossing. Had I started with books 1 and 2, I'm not sure I'd have kept reading. Thankfully, the earliest book my local library had at that time was #6, so by the time I read the books in order, I was already hooked.

To be an artist is never to avert one's eyes.
- Akira Kurosawa

https://www.patheos.com/blogs/secularcinephile/

Link to post
Share on other sites

[snippage...]Weir's got another feather in his cap with this one. It's the finest seafaring film I've seen, except perhaps Das Boot, and boasts another great performance by Russell Crowe (although Paul Bettany's supporting performance equals and perhaps surpasses it.)

Well that certainly sounds good. I thought Das Boot was so great that I've avoided every subsequent submarine movie, so you've raised my expectations considerably.

Regarding violence: The violence in this film is harder to watch than the violence in Kill Bill. It's realistic, for one thing. There are a few emergency surgery scenes that had me digging my fingers into the arm rest of the chair and gritting my teeth. Ow.

I actually prefer this, painful as it may be, as I see it as justified by context and I'd prefer that violence not be trivialized, unless the movie really is ckearly fantasy or cartoon. Sometimes the lines are hard to draw & describe, but KB is off my list. Appreciated the discussion on this board very much.

There are strong visual echoes of Gallipoli (one that I suspect was deliberate), Dead Poet's Society, and a thematic connection to The Mosquito Coast... a theme that seems to pop up in all Weir films, really.

Sounds good to me. And if there's a sequel, the many O'Brian fans will be ecstatic, I'm sure. The film-makers had to know they were out there. Maybe they could hear them breathing.

There is this difference between the growth of some human beings and that of others: in the one case it is a continuous dying, in the other a continuous resurrection. (George MacDonald, The Princess and Curdie)

Isn't narrative structure enough of an ideology for art? (Greg Wright)

Link to post
Share on other sites

A nifty thing to think about for potential sequels to this film is the diversity of locations portrayed in the Aubrey/Maturin books: Indonesia, Australia, the near-Antarctic, Pacific Islands, a tense War of 1812 Boston, a French prison, etc. If done well, these could be a thrill to behold.

To be an artist is never to avert one's eyes.
- Akira Kurosawa

https://www.patheos.com/blogs/secularcinephile/

Link to post
Share on other sites

I'm relieved to hear good things about this film. I read all of the Aubrey/Maturin books back in high school, and was thrilled when I heard there was a movie coming out. However, I was a bit nervous as well--although I'm no literalist when it comes to movie adaptations of books, I at least want justice done to the source.

Outside of a dog, a book is man's best friend. Inside a dog, it's too dark to read.

--Groucho Marx

Link to post
Share on other sites

Welcome to the boards, Caleb. As one who has also read the Aubrey/Maturin series, I'd be interested in your take on my comments below:

Jeffrey's comment about the amount of God-talk in this movie got me thinking about the way religion was depicted in the books. I don't remember it being a huge feature of the stories, talked about rather matter-of-factly, like the fauna of Batavia. As I recall, Aubrey was very much of a nominal Church of England man, a captain who is much more comfortable reading the Articles of the Navy than the Bible at Sunday service on the ship. Maturin has paid much more of a price for being a Catholic in English society, but I got the impression that he was more of a cultural Catholic than a man of active faith.

Interestingly, the books had other references to contemporary faith practices, such as Methodism (viewed condescendingly by Aubrey)and 'blue light captains' (those overtly full of evangelical fervor, also looked on unfavorably by Aubrey).

To be an artist is never to avert one's eyes.
- Akira Kurosawa

https://www.patheos.com/blogs/secularcinephile/

Link to post
Share on other sites

Andrew,

Although it's been quite a while since I've read the books, what I remember matches up with your observations. Aubrey is nominal C of E and looks down upon Methodists, and Maturin is a cultural RC.

Outside of a dog, a book is man's best friend. Inside a dog, it's too dark to read.

--Groucho Marx

Link to post
Share on other sites

Andrew,  

Although it's been quite a while since I've read the books, what I remember matches up with your observations.  Aubrey is nominal C of E and looks down upon Methodists, and Maturin is a cultural RC.

Even convinced C of E believers tended to look down on Methodists at the time. Swift, for example, and Johnson, thought their "enthusiasm" showed a distressing lack of decorum--all that shouting and singing and raw emotion. Those were the days to be a Methodist, I often say smile.gif

There is this difference between the growth of some human beings and that of others: in the one case it is a continuous dying, in the other a continuous resurrection. (George MacDonald, The Princess and Curdie)

Isn't narrative structure enough of an ideology for art? (Greg Wright)

Link to post
Share on other sites

Master & Commander is a shoo-in for my Top Ten list. A smart, smart script, exciting action, intelligent and thoughtful characters intelligently and thoughtfully disagreeing, scenes that make you wince and cheer and laugh out loud -- what's not to love? Why isn't this movie getting UNANIMOUS raves at RT? How the heck are a few critics even calling it "boring"? I think it's a nearly perfect film.

An action-adventure film that contains serious and genuinely ambiguous discussions about such moral issues as whether a promise is absolutely binding or subject to exigencies and circumstances, about when military discipline and duty are carried too far, in which characters debate and the movie doesn't telegraph which one we're meant to agree with by having one of them be the unreasonable, unsympathetic, gray-haired hard-ass from hell and the other one the righteous, handsome, sensitive new-age guy. Imagine that. And faith and science, creation and evolution, taken for granted to be in harmony, not conflict. Wow.

Give it up to Russell Crowe -- the man may be a complete [expletive deleted] in his personal life, but he doesn't make trash. And with Peter Weir rather than Ridley Scott or Ron Howard at the helm, this is a much better film than any of his other recent projects (not that Gladiator or A Beautiful Mind were trash, but they were both flawed pictures).

“I write because I don’t know what I think until I read what I say.” — Flannery O'Connor

Writing at the new Decent Films | Follow me on Twitter and Facebook

Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.


×
×
  • Create New...