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Movie Info




Teenagers to adults


November, 2003


138 minutes


Historical Drama


Russell Crowe, Paul Bettany, Billy Boyd, Max Pirkis, James DArcy, Lee Ingleby, Max Benitz, and Bryan Dick


Peter Weir


Samuel Goldwyn, Jr., Peter Weir, and Duncan Henderson


Alan B. Curtiss


Peter Weir and John Collee


Patrick OBrian


20th Century Fox



Please Note

In providing movie reviews on our site, is not endorsing or recommending films we review. Our goal is to provide Christians with information about the latest movies, both the good and the bad, so that our readers may make an informed decision as to whether or not films are appropriate for them and their families.


Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World

By Ted Baehr
MovieGuide Magazine

CBN.comMASTER AND COMMANDER, which is subtitled THE FAR SIDE OF THE WORLD, is a rousing sea adventure starring Russell Crowe in another fine action role. Directed by Peter Weir (THE TRUMAN SHOW and WITNESS), its one of the more excellent features in 2003 thats appropriate for teenagers. Its certainly better than SCARY MOVIE 3 and TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE, which have been attracting confused teenagers by the millions.

The movie opens in 1805 with the Captain of the HMS Surprise, Jack Aubrey, almost seeing his ship sunk by a French Napoleon ship, the Acheron. The Surprise has orders to stop the Acheron from making its way to the Pacific Ocean where it can find supplies and pirated booty for her French emperor, Napoleon, who controls most of Europe. The Acheron comes out of a fog to almost blast the Surprise out of the water.

After barely escaping by hiding in the fog itself, the Surprise hobbles to a nearby shoal, where Captain Aubrey intends to put his ship back into action. Aubrey pursues the Acheron around "the Horn" of South America. His best friend, however, Stephen Maturin, the ships surgeon played by Paul Bettany, begins to question whether Jack has not become obsessed with defeating the superior ship and her sneaky, resourceful captain.

Director Peter Weir is a master craftsman at creating atmosphere, whether it be an Amish village, a crazy reality TV show, or the strange religious beliefs of Australian aborigines. He does a superb job here of re-creating the period detail of the sea battles and human struggles during the Napoleonic Wars between England and France.

Russell Crowe in Master and CommanderRussell Crowe and Paul Bettany, who worked together on A BEAUTIFUL MIND, have established an acting rapport that brings to life the characters from two of late author Patrick OBrians 20 "Aubrey/Maturin" novels. The New York Times has called these novels "the best historical novels ever written." On screen, Crowe plays the gregarious Captain Aubrey with his usual insightful panache, and Bettany plays Dr. Maturin with an earnest, sarcastic pensive quality. They establish the kind of respectful, friendly, but tense, relationship that made the original STAR TREK series so beloved, where the spaceship Enterprise and her leaders were often compared to seagoing vessels, captains, and officers just like the HMS Surprise. Apparently, the late Patrick OBrian has established a similar passionate following with his own stories.

What makes this movie really take off, however, is a superb little performance by young Max Pirkis, who plays a very young midshipman named Blakeney. Blakeney suffers a personal tragedy early in the movie, and the story follows him as he recovers from that tragedy and becomes friends with Dr. Maturin, with whom he shares an interest in biology. Dr. Maturin becomes a mentor to the young midshipman, who also greatly admires Captain Aubrey, though their relationship is a little more distant. This subplot brings color and depth to all the action. Max Pirkis deserves great credit for handling such an important minor role so well, and Weir deserves credit for not letting the subplot overwhelm the story between his two stars, Crowe and Bettany.

MASTER AND COMMANDER contains wonderful storm sequences and great sea battles, with lots of action and some violence. Regrettably, there is one "f" word and one GD, and some light obscenities and light profanities. Although the violence is not excessive, there are scenes of implied medical surgery. Director Weir cuts away from such scenes, or views them from long distance, before they get too gruesome, however.

On the positive side, the movie has a very strong moral worldview, which is supplemented by some very strong Christian elements, including important positive references to Jesus Christ, God, and the Lords Prayer. These Christian elements come a little late in the movie to make it a Christian worldview, but they will help the movie reach out to the massive Christian audience and other moviegoers who admire Jesus Christ and some of his teachings. The movie is not preachy about these things, however. The emphasis is on action and personal relationships.

Some minor negative elements take the edge off the movies positive qualities. For instance, in one subplot, a crewman begins to think he has been cursed by the other crewmembers, who blame him for the ships troubles. Hes a "Jonah" they say, someone who has somehow offended God and brings doom upon other people aboard a ship. Also, one of the main desires of Dr. Maturin is to visit the Galapagos Islands and study the unique creatures and fauna there. Captain Aubreys pursuit of the French ship keeps interfering with the surgeon and budding naturalists desires. This plot is an oblique reference to the work of Charles Darwin, who developed his false theory of evolution by visiting the Galapagos. The movie does not mention evolution, however, and Dr. Maturin acknowledges God by mentioning Him at least once and by joining in during one important Christian ritual.

The language, violence, and minor negative elements require caution for children. MASTER AND COMMANDER is probably appropriate, however, for most teenagers. As usual, parents need to take an active role and decide which of their children can see this movie.

Please address your comments to:

Peter Chernin, Chairman and CEO
The Fox Group
Tom Rothman and Jim Gianopulos, Chairmen
Fox Filmed Entertainment
20th Century Fox Film Corp.
A division of Fox, Inc. and News Corp.
10201 West Pico Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90035

Phone: (310) 369-1000
(C) baehr, 2003

NOTE from Dr. Ted Baehr, publisher of Movieguide Magazine: For more information from a Christian perspective, order the latest Movieguide Magazine by calling 1-800-899-6684(MOVI) or visit our website at Movieguide is dedicated to redeeming the values of Hollywood by informing parents about today's movies and entertainment and by showing media executives and artists that family-friendly and even Christian-friendly movies do best at the box office year in and year out. Movieguide now offers an online subscription to its magazine version, at The magazine, which comes out 25 times a year, contains many informative articles and reviews that help parents train their children to be media-wise consumers.

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