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Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World
DVD disk
10.06.2004 By: The Shootin Surgeon
Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World order
Peter Weir

Russell Crowe
Paul Bettany
Billy Boyd


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It’s the year 1805. Napoleon has conquered Europe and sits licking his chops at the thought of taking Britain. Carrying the war to the faraway coasts of South America, the frigate HMS Surprise and its Captain, “Lucky” Jack Aubrey (Crowe), hunt for the Acheron, a French Man O War cruising the oceans like a hungry predator. The Acheron however has different plans and seeks, ironically enough, to turn the tables on the Surprise.
One of the few downsides of this DVD gig is that I don’t get a chance to see as many movies in theatres as I’d like to. Quite often, a flick will come out that I really have my heart set out on, but unfortunately, I sometimes get stuck sitting through some stupid Adam Sandler commentary track instead. MASTER AND COMMANDER was just one of those films I was eager for, but never got around to seeing on the big screen. Later on, I started hearing some pretty bad word of mouth. “Long and boring”, “dull and slow” were only some of the comments that made it to me, but still I kept a glimmer of hope while my DVD player sucked in this disc. My reward was a film that took me in its wake on a journey through the glory days of the Old Empires, when battles where fought by men with courage and passion and when King and Country where worthy of all sacrifice.

Now surely enough, the film does move at the pace of a sailboat but you still shouldn’t expect a rowdy chase through the seas with swashbucklers swinging overboard a la PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN. Anyone who’s done any research on the history of naval battles will tell you that aside from being extremely dangerous, that life was also quite tedious at times. This is not to say that the film is, in any way, boring but that much of the tension is created through the wait rather than the action itself, with the burst of excitement coming unpredictably and arriving in a fast and furious manner. That same aspect of the film is reflected in its lead actor.

Crowe exudes the quiet strength of a Captain who is capable both of calm demeanor and complete self-control but who’s also able to explode into sheer energy when times turn to battle. Paul Bettany also provided brilliant support as the ship’s doctor, more interested at times in science than battle and a close friend and advisor of the Captain. His effort is only made more appreciable by the fact that any man who can tear himself away from a wife as beautiful as his to go off and make movies, should be commended for that alone. MASTER AND COMMANDER, through its passive tension, great performances and sheer beauty is a wonderful film that goes by much faster than its running time would indicate. It’s also a nice way to escape into days long gone.
The Hundred Days (70 mins.): A very nice, if slightly overdrawn, making-of documentary that includes segments about the ships, the cast and characters, the story and much more. The way all the features are presented on this DVD is physically very similar to the film. Nothing is hurried and they take the time to make sure the point comes across but sometimes what’s good in a movie may not be so good in explaining how it was made. They’re also all a bit too slow so if you have the patience to sit through them, you will get something out of it.

In the Wake of O'Brian (20 mins.): Director Peter Weir explains his adaptation of Patrick O’Brian’s novel. Now I’ve joked about this a lot in the past, but this is the first time I actually literally fell asleep while watching a DVD feature. I sort of understand that Weir was trying to convey how he really wanted this to stay true to the novels, but it was just too slow for my taste.


Cinematic Phasmids (30 mins.): Never mind the word “Phasmids”, this has nothing to do with your reproductive system. It does however have to do with the visual effects used in the film, which just happened to be wonderful. What I mean by wonderful is that you can’t even notice them since many were used to reproduce reality in a more controlled environment. It’s actually pretty interesting but don’t expect anything new.

Sound Design (20 mins): Aside from rigging up tall ships, equipping them with microphones and blasting them down to Davey Jones’ locker, there’s not many other ways to reproduce a 19th century naval battle other than to hit the sound studios and you can tag along in here. Much like the visual effects featurette, there’s not much groundbreaking going on in here, but you can play with a cannon sound at the end and isolate different components of it through an interactive sound featurette. A few minutes’ detour might be worth it.

HBO First Look (25 mins.): This is another 'making of' featurette but this time with all the studio stuff wrapped around it. If you’ve already sat through the first one, skip this one. If you haven’t, you can get the gist of it right here.

Deleted Scenes (25 mins.): Seven different scenes can be accessed here, most are just average stuff that the movie was fine without, but it may be worth it just to see some nice shots.

Multi-Camera Shooting (20 mins.): Here you can check out a few scenes and change the camera angle from your remote control. There are a few nice action sequences that are quite enjoyable seen through this method so you can play around there quite a bit. It’s more for kicks than anything else though.

Stills Galleries: You’ll find oodles of pics there in different categories such as conceptual art, naval art and technical drawings, many of them quite nice.

Trailers: Included are the theatrical trailer, the theatrical teaser and the international trailer.
This is a great film that really captures the epic scale of naval combat and the isolation of the seafaring lifestyle. Truly beautiful to look at and containing some great performances by both lead actors, it’s an entertaining watch and I, for one, would gladly see it again. The features on the second disc are a bit overdrawn, but if you really focus on the movie, then it’s worth acquiring.
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