Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World [2003]

In the capable hands of director Peter Weir, Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World is a seafaring adventure like no other, impeccably authentic, dynamically cast, and thrilling enough to give any classic swashbuckler a run for its money. In adapting two of Patrick O'Brian's enormously popular novels about British naval hero Capt. Jack Aubrey, Weir and cowriter John Collee have changed the timeframe from the British/American war of 1812 to the British/French opposition of 1805, where the HMS Surprise, under Aubrey's confident command, is patrolling the South Atlantic in pursuit of the Acheron, a French warship with the strategic advantage of greater size, speed, and artillery. Russell Crowe is outstanding as Aubrey, firm and fiercely loyal, focused on his prey even if it means locking horns with his friend and ship's surgeon, played by Crowe's A Beautiful Mind costar Paul Bettany. Employing a seamless combination of carefully matched ocean footage, detailed models, full-scale ships, and CGI enhancements, Weir pays exacting attention to every nautical detail, while maintaining a very human story of honor, warfare, and survival under wretched conditions. Raging storms and hull-shattering battles provide pulse-pounding action, and a visit to the Galapagos Islands lends a note of otherworldly wonder, adding yet another layer of historical perspective to this splendidly epic adventure. --Jeff Shannon

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