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"Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World"

Directed by Peter Weir.
Written by Peter Weir and John Collee.  Based on the novel series by Patrick O'Brian. 
Starring Russell Crowe and Paul Bettany.
Release Year:  2003 
Review Date:  11/17/03 


Much like the title “Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World”, the new Russell Crowe seafaring adventure is llllllooooonnnnnggggg.

It is this length—and its very familiar storyline—that takes the film down a notch, but when “Master and Commander” is good, it is very good.  Crowe plays a British sea captain trying to take his vessel from the coast of Brazil back to home waters when it is ambushed by a French ship in 1805.  After sustaining heavy damages, the Brits escape more serious harm to make repairs and go after those French bastards to put them out of their misery.

That much seemed obvious from watching the trailer.  What DIDN’T seem all that obvious was that the first attack would take place in the first five minutes of the film, and getting back at those Frenchies would then take place literally TWO HOURS LATER.  So, what do we do for two hours?  Well, dear God man!  We must go through hoop after hoop of boat clichés, so of course we will watch as the men bond below decks, drink, and otherwise be merry; there will be some drama involving the weather; there will nearly be a mutiny, and on and on.  Director Peter Weir does well with this hackneyed drama by giving us a beautiful looking movie, and the special effects are very well done too.  His battle sequences—whoops, all two of them—are awesome; love the sound of cannon fire, and when we finally get the set piece we wait all movie long for, at least it delivers by giving us ship-to-ship warfare, and classic board-the-bad-guy action as Crowe and friends attempt to take the fight to the Frenchies.

Crowe is once again fantastic.  There are only a few guys that can play the role of larger-than-life hero, and Crowe continues to prove he IS one of those lucky actors.  From the speeches to the presence to the swordplay, Crowe really takes you to another world with his performance in “Master and Commander.”  Paul Bettany, so good in “A Knight’s Tale” as Chaucer a couple years back, makes a lot out of what seems like it should be a thankless role as the ship’s doctor and fighting naturalist, and the rest of the cast yells nautical commands and swigs rum perfectly fine.

“Master and Commander” brings almost nothing new to the boat battle genre in the grand scheme of things.  In the end though, this film’s look warrants that you should see it in a theater...just make sure that you bring enough Junior Mints to snack on while you wait for the finale.

Rating:  Matinee


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Bellview Rating System:

"Opening Weekend":  This is the highest rating a movie can receive.  Reserved for movies that exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development, setting...or Salma Hayek.  Not necessarily in that order. 

"$X.XX Show":  This price changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently, it is the $9.50 Show.  While not technically perfect, this is a movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.  "Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca", but you'll have a great time watching.  The $9.50 Show won't win any Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see "Office Space"). 

"Matinee":  An average movie that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.  Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about yourself.  A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave the theater saying "That wasn't too, did you see that Lakers game last night?" 

"Rental":  This rating indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one."  Mostly forgettable, you couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the video store was out of copies of "Ronin."  If you can, see this movie for free.  This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a half stars." 

"Hard Vice":  This rating is the bottom of the barrel.  A movie that only six other human beings have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen.  A Shannon Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a movie.  Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or "Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!  (Warning:  strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard Vice"-rated movies.)

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The "fine print":
All material by Justin Elliot Bell for SMR/Bellview/ except where noted
© 1999-2009 Justin Elliot Bell This site was last updated 01/08/09