| Captain Jack Aubrey (Russell Crowe) warns his crew that the Surprise is about to come under attack. (courtesy photo)
'Master and Commander' pits the British against the French, and leaves Americans to enjoy a spirited film
Before his death three years ago, Patrick O'Brian published 20 volumes of vivid historical fiction that, focusing on naval captain Jack Aubrey and ship's physician Stephen Maturin, recreate life on a British man-of-war during the early 19th century. Napoleonic France was the adversary, and the United States, an upstart former colony, had to be put in its place. Combining the first installment in the series, Master and Commander, with a later one, The Far Side of the World, the first cinematic adaptation of O'Brian's work is as nimble as its title is unwieldy.
The year is 1805, and, seven weeks out of home port, Aubrey (Crowe) commands his ship, the HMS Surprise, in pursuit of the Acheron, a French frigate, along the eastern coast of South America, around Cape Horn, and north to the Galápagos Islands, also aptly named Las Islas Encantadas - the Enchanted Isles. One of the most striking changes that Peter Weir, the Australian director who has worked in the U.S. for more than two decades, made to O'Brian's meticulously researched fiction was to have the hostile frigate be French instead of American. While American troops are dying in Iraq, it would have been hard for Twentieth Century Fox to release a feature in which the objective is to destroy a vessel that flies the Stars and Stripes. Some moviegoers in this country might be pleased to see an official representative of France vilified. "It's a devil's ship, I tell you," says one of Aubrey's sailors. "And it's leading us right to the gates of hell."
| Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World |
Dir. Peter Weir; writ. Peter Weir & John Colley, based on novels by Patrick O'Brian; feat. Russell Crowe, Paul Bettany, James D' Arcy, Lee Ingleby, Max Pirkis (PG-13)