It's got a colon in the title, so it must
be important. It's also got one of the longest names of any film
this year. Therefore it must be good. Mustn't it?
Award (tm) winner Russell Crowe (no relation to Sheryl Crowe) stars in
this epic tale of naval courage and gritty oceanic warfare. Now
that Crowe has won an Oscar(tm), he must always be referred to as
Academy Award (tm) winner, Russell Crowe, rather than just plain old
actor Russell Crowe. If he is inadvertently referred to without
mention of his Academy Award (tm), the Academy will come and get you.
And you don't want that.
Here's the short review:
Gladiator at sea.
Okay, here's a bit more: it's
The Perfect Storm meets
The Patriot, but not exactly. How about
Pirates of the Caribbean meets
Muppet Treasure Island meets
Cutthroat Island? Okay, maybe not.
Since Pirates of the Caribbean was such a big success, and
because Master and Commander stars a major box office star, we
can expect that we will soon be inundated with naval warfare films.
That's not necessarily a bad thing. It'll be like the second
renaissance of swashbuckling films.
Master and Commander is a lot more serious than Pirates of the
Caribbean, and Crowe's Captain Jack Aubrey is nowhere near as much
fun as Johnny Depp's Captain Jack Sparrow. Crowe does bring a
gritty, brooding, macho hero element to the role, which is interesting
to watch throughout the film.
The movie is directed by Peter Weir, who you may remember from such
The Truman Show(1998),
Dead Poets Society (1989), and
Witness (1985). Master and Commander tries to be epic,
though perhaps a bit too epic. In addition to the big battle
scenes, we are treated to the interactions of the crew. It becomes
a bit overwhelming at times, though, to keep track of who is who.
The tremendous impact of sailor so-in-so having something happen to him
seems to get lost when you can't keep the crew members straight.
Added to that is the fact that the big battle sequences are kind of hard
to follow; you get a sense of the chaos of battle, but you're never sure
who's winning and who's dying.
Since Russell Crowe plays in
his own band (you can
buy his album
here), you'd expect the scenes where he plays the violin to look
more like he's actually playing. Granted, the violin and electric
guitar aren't exactly the same, but still...he should at least be close.
It looks like he's trying to squash a cockroach on the violin strings.
There are many faces you'll recognize in the crew (including Billy
Boyd from Lord of the Rings trilogy), but the best supporting
performances come from Paul Bettany (who you may remember as Chaucer
A Knight's Tale and Russell Crowe's friend in
A Beautiful Mind) and newcomer Max Pirkis (he's a kid and this
is his first film). Pirkis looks familiar, sort of like the kid
who played Oliver in Oliver, but maybe it's the British accent
that confused the Masked Reviewer. He gives a solid performance in
an unusually heavy role (for a kid). Bettany is arguably the most
interesting character in the film, and he is the center of humanity on
There isn't any romance in the film; in fact, there's maybe one woman
in the entire film, and she only appears on screen for at most 5
seconds, and she's clothed that entire time. So don't go in
expecting a romantic high seas adventure.
The naval battles are cool, the highlight being the sound effects.
Apparently they recorded real artillery at a National Guard outpost
somewhere. The theater rumbles and it makes for an impressive
Unfortunately, Master and Commander isn't really worth all the
impressive rumbling. It's not bad, but it's certainly not great.
Everything in the film seems to have been done before. While this
can be said for a great number of movies, Weir didn't make the material
seem fresh or different from the pack. We've seen naval battles
before. We've felt the unhappiness of the crew. We've seen
boarding parties. We've seen obsessed captains. We've seen
big storms. We may not have seen all of those elements put
together in exactly this way, but it all feels re-hashed. Perhaps
that's because many of these elements are present in other seafaring
films. A lot of it appears in The Bounty. And
Moby Dick. And
The Crimson Pirate. And
Star Trek II: The Wrath of Kahn.
Russell Crowe fans will want to check him out. There has been
buzz about another Academy Award (tm) nomination, even before the film
was released (not that seeing the film has anything to do with a
nomination). He's good, but there's not nearly as much to the role
as The Insider or A Beautiful Mind or Gladiator.
Hopefully his next film will be Inside the Mind of a Beautiful
Gladiator. But the Masked Reviewer digresses.
If you're expecting an epic like Gladiator, it's not quite
there. It is epic, but it's not brilliant. It's a little bit
slow and unfocused and too familiar to get overly excited about.
Don't miss the boat! It's worth seeing if you have any interest
in naval conflict. If you like seamen, you'll get your fill from
Expectation from the Title: An S&M duo travel to China to
attend a Kink Convention, but find it's all tops and no bottoms.
Mother's Rule (Always Say Something Good About Everything):
Russell Crowe seems to be doing much better since he got out of the
hospital in A Beautiful Mind.
The Pros: Decent battle scenes, great sound, some solid
The Cons: Seems too familiar and not new or creative.
Too many characters that aren't well-defined enough to know what's
happening to who.