Master and Commander The Far Side of the World (12)
Time Out says'Off tacks and main sheet!' commands Russell Crowe's pony-tailed, gimlet-eyed Royal Navy captain, 'Lucky' Jack Aubrey, in Weir's rousing 1805 adventure, adapted from two of Patrick O'Brian's much-admired seafaring novels. Aubrey's three-masted frigate HMS Surprise, cruising the coast of Brazil on the lookout for Napoleon's allies, comes under splintering fire from the fleeter French privateer Acheron and lifts off in the fog. The sailing master (Pugh) counsels caution, but the standfast Aubrey, who fought with Nelson on the Nile, will have his man, whatever the odds, come hell or high water. Thanks in no small measure to Perfect Storm designer William Sandell, this handsomely mounted actioner exudes the authentic tang of salt, sweat and gunpowder. Cameraman Russell Boyd gives painterly expression to the ship's 'little world' and, as in Gallipoli, Weir shows his adroitness at action and the psychology of men at war, helped by a string of sterling performances, notably Bettany's Darwin-esque doctor (Aubrey's friend, cello partner and obverse) and young Pirkis as a heroic aristocratic midshipman. Nice too to hear English accents in a major US production, especially Crowe's clipped tones, and a well used classically oriented score stripped of bombast. If there's a problem, it's the insistence on the warrior/man-of-science dichotomy, which has the film meander off on a naturalist jaunt through the Galapagos to tension-slackening effect. But in the main, a fine old-fashioned Boy's Own yarn.
Cast and crew
James D'Arcy, Max Benitz, Robert Pugh, Richard McCabe, Billy Boyd, Chris Larkin, George Innes, Mark Lewis Jones, Russell Crowe, Richard Pates, Thierry Segall, Lee Ingleby, Jack Randall, Paul Bettany, David Threlfall, Max Pirkis, Edward Woodall