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MOVIE INFO

Director:
Peter Weir
Cast:
Russell Crowe, Paul Bettany, James D'Arcy
Writing Credits:
Peter Weir, John Collee

Synopsis:
During the Napoleonic Wars, a brash British captain pushes his ship and crew to their limits in pursuit of a formidable French war vessel around South America.

Box Office:
Budget
$150 million.
Opening Weekend
$25,105,990 on 3101 screens.
Domestic Gross
$93,927,920.

MPAA:
Rated PG-13.

DISC DETAILS
Presentation:
Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1
Audio:
English DTS-HD MA 5.1
French Dolby 5.1
Spanish Dolby 5.1
Subtitles:
English
Spanish
Korean
Cantonese
Closed-captioned
Supplements Subtitles:
None

Runtime: 138 min.
Price: $9.98
Release Date: 5/13/2008

Bonus:
• ďSearch ContentĒ Feature
• Trivia Track
• Pop Up Map
• Deleted Scenes
• Trailers


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RELATED REVIEWS


Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World [Blu-Ray] (2003)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (December 17, 2020)

In 2001, The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring demonstrated that folks would embrace a well-made fantasy flick set in the world of elves, dwarves, and other such mystical folk.

In 2003, Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl proved that audiences would flock to an exciting and fun buccaneer adventure.

Set on the high seas of the early 19th century, Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World attempted to spark interest in another kind of film that usually failed to provoke much attention.

While World didnít capture the enormous box office receipts of the others I mentioned, it made a decent $92 million and earned a smattering of Oscar nominations, including one as Best Picture. It established an audience for this sort of period piece, though not enough of one to spawn sequels, unfortunately.

World depicts the adventures of British naval commander Captain Jack Aubrey (Russell Crowe). He helms the HMS Surprise and gets the assignment to find and stop the French privateer Acheron.

At the start of the film, we see a battle between the two. The Acheron sneaks up on the Surprise and gets the better of the British boat.

After they do some repairs, they set out to track down the Acheron and do his duty. However, Aubreyís obsession seems to enter Ahab territory, which leads his friend and shipís physician, Dr. Stephen Maturin (Paul Bettany) to question whether Aubrey really works for the British Empire or for his own pride.

Essentially, thatís your plot. This synopsis simplifies things and obviously omits many characters, but the movie boils down to the quest to find and halt the Acheron, with an emphasis on Maturinís concerns about Aubreyís obsession.

Despite the simplicity of the plot, World brings out a lot of nuance in its depiction of the environment. While the movie depicts enough battles to keep our interest, it focuses more heavily on the day-to-day life on board the ship during their quest.

In some ways, the pursuit of the Acheron feels like a MacGuffin. Sure, the story loosely revolves around that chase, but it mostly exists as a framework for an examination of the Surpriseís crew. This occasionally makes for some slow moments, but World mostly holds our interest as we examine the on-ship dynamic.

A lot of the momentum comes from Croweís fine performance as Aubrey. As always, he throws himself fully into the role, and Aubrey presents a larger than life personality that seems well-suited for the forceful Crowe.

However, he doesnít just pound his way through the part. Crowe appears warm and gently paternal when he works with the shipís younger crewmembers, though he avoids sappiness and sentimentality. He presents a solid performance that adds depth to the role of the obsessive captain.

The moderate focus on the young seamen also adds interest to World. We see a lot of Midshipman Blakeney (Max Pirkis), and that gives us a nice entry point into the lives of these teens and younger who got cast into a manís world. Other films touch on these issues, but World explores them with greater intensity.

These moments avoid gooey and cutesy trappings, as director Peter Weir keeps the movie on a natural and stately track. Given the sporadic nature of the action, World easily could turn dull, but Weir manages to maintain our interest.

The underlying tension of the pursuit helps, and Weir depicts that in a fine way that keeps us intrigued. He never lets us see the Acheron from the French point of view.

Instead, it always remains at a distance and viewed through British eyes. We donít know any more than the Surprise crew, and that intensified the mystery.

Successful sea-based movies donít come around often, but Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World presents a winning adventure. It features enough action to keep our attention and also offers a nicely detailed examination on life aboard a 19th century warship. Replete with fine performances and excellent production values, the film comes as a pleasant surprise.


The Disc Grades: Picture C/ Audio A/ Bonus C

Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.40:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. This became a less than impressive presentation.

Though the disc didnít hit shelves until May 2008, it clearly came from a transfer that sat idle for years. This meant we got a product that seemed dated even in 2008, so it came across as much weaker in 2020.

The filmís settings and visual style didnít help matters, as much of the movie took place in murky domains. These naturally impacted clarity.

Still, I felt most of the concerns came from the relatively ancient vintage of the transfer and encoding, as these left us with an image that lacked much detail. While the movie usually displayed reasonable accuracy, it tended to seem more than a little bland.

No issues with jagged edges or shimmering occurred, and I witnessed no edge haloes. We got a lot of grain Ė and probably some digital artifacts Ė so I didnít suspect noise reduction, and print flaws remained absent.

I didnít expect a somber sea journey like World to present a varied palette, and I got what I anticipated. The colors represented the filmmakersí intentions and seemed more than adequate in that regard.

The movie tended toward a low-key somewhat golden tone much of the time, likely inspired by the candlelight that infused so many of the shots on the ship. Segments above deck werenít much brighter, and even the bits on the Galapagos Islands were fairly subdued.

Black levels seemed pretty solid, though some shots were slightly inky. Low-light created some challenges, especially via the many nighttime shots.

These came across as a bit dense, but most shadows were reasonably visible. Though I doubt itíll ever look great, I think a new transfer/encode of the film would work better than this mushy image.

For your reading pleasure, hereís a text recreation of Worldís DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack: creak...swish... creak... splash... BLAMMITY-BLAM-BLAM-SMASH!!! The soundtrack mixed many scenes of quiet solemnity and reflection with some of the most intense battle sequences Iíve heard.

Those pieces were what earned World its ďAĒ for audio, though the rest of the track worked fine as well. The mixes nicely replicated the feeling of being on the sea, with all the ambience that fits the setting. Waves lapped, gulls squawked and planks creaked.

But Iíd never give a Blu-ray an ďAĒ for accurate creaking. No, it was those vicious fight scenes that easily merited the high grade. Boy, did they pack a wallop!

Elements flew all around the spectrum in a highly effective and logical manner, and these really placed us smack dab in the middle of the action. All five speakers presented an immense amount of information in these superbly crafted sequences.

The opening battle between the Surprise and the Acheron offered real demo material, and the subsequent assaults lived up to that level. Some of the sailing shots also became quite immersive, and storms worked well too. Nonetheless, it was the battles that mostly impressed.

Audio quality also came across as terrific. Speech seemed natural and distinctive, with no issues connected to edginess or intelligibility.

Music was vibrant and dynamic. Scores with a heavy percussive element always seem to fare best, and this was no exception. The music presented a lively and well-recorded affair that always sounded solid.

Of course, the effects played the most prominent role, and they seemed tremendously strong. The low-key ambient elements were natural and smooth, and louder bits appeared detailed and impressive.

Every blast of a cannon and every crack of a blow came across strongly. These boosted the caliber of the mix, as did the fantastic bass response.

Low-end was consistently loud and bold but also tight and firm. I noticed no boominess or distortion, as the bass kicked down the walls.

How did the Blu-ray compare to the DVD version? The lossless audio added some kick to the lossy DVD track.

As for the visuals, the formatís capabilities allowed the Blu-ray to look a bit tighter and more dynamic than the DVD, but donít expect a major improvement. While the Blu-ray became the more satisfying of the two, it didnít offer a sizable step up in picture quality.

Only a few of the DVDís extras port over here, and we get The six deleted scenes. Not just tiny snippets, these run a total of 24 minutes and 20 seconds, so they average more than four minutes a scene.

Unfortunately, length doesnít equal quality, so donít expect anything very interesting here. The longest follows life on the ship and grows pretty tedious, as we get more than enough of that material in the final flick.

A couple of others also present fairly low-key material and add little. We find an addition to the flogging sequence that broadens character slightly, as do a couple of other bits. They give us more information about secondary characters. Nonetheless, thereís nothing here that belonged in the finished product, and none of the scenes seems terribly compelling.

New to the Blu-ray, a ďHistorical and GeographicĒ trivia track offers an addition that accompanies the film. It tells us facts about the novel, the movie, and the requisite historical/geographic topics. It doesnít turn into a great subtitle commentary but it adds some decent notes.

An unusual kind of option, Search Content displays an alphabetized list with many different movie-related topics. When you click on any of these, you can leap immediately to the parts of the film that apply. This doesnít seem as useful as it sounds, but someone might benefit from it.

Another feature that runs alongside the movie, a Pop Up Map shows the locations of the filmís ship periodically. Itís painless but not especially beneficial.

In addition to the filmís trailer, we get ads under Fox on Blu-ray. This domain brings promos for Day After Tomorrow, Eragon and Kingdom of Heaven.

Although we donít get many movies in the genre, Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World shows that these flicks can earn attention if warranted. As a rich and lively piece of work, World demonstrates the stronger points of the subject matter and comes across as successful and enjoyable. The Blu-ray offers excellent audio and a decent set of bonus materials but visuals seem subpar. This quality movie needs a new Blu-ray.

To rate this film, visit the original review of MASTER & COMMANDER