Torture or Treat- Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World

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Bad Guys Win takes your recommendation and decides whether it is Torture or a Treat.

A recommendation from Mary, Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World comes with the baggage of being a period piece starring Russell Crowe. Crowe loves period pieces, he’s easily made more than 5 thus far in his career, rough estimate, and tends to be a good fit, as do most British and Australian actors. Let’s face it, anyone not from the Fifty Nifty can generally pull off a period piece. But I do not like Gladiator very much and don’t really want to revisit A Beautiful Mind, which also featured Paul Bettany. So, deck stacked.

Lo and behold, the deciding factor appears to have been director Peter Weir. My film professor at Lake State once referred to Weir as one of finest directors alive. I scoffed at this statement, based solely on the fact that Dead Poets Society is garbage. Based on Master and Commander, I might be willing to reconsider the man. (But just the man. Life is too short to sit through DPS again.)

Master and Commander takes place almost entirely aboard the HMS Surprise, captained by Crowe’s “Lucky Jack” Aubrey. After a surprise attack by a French vessel at the beginning of the film, Captain Jack and his crew engage in pursuit, despite the fact that they are both outnumbered and outgunned. This is a thrilling setup for a film and I’m happy to say that Master and Commander delivers. It also succeeds in making those Pirates of the Caribbean movies look even worse than they already do. Russell Crowe is perfect casting as Captain Jack, projecting a strong man’s man vibe while not coming off as cold and impersonal. He’s such a good captain because his crew respects him, and it’s pretty enjoyable to watch this crew of men, bonded by their close quarters, work together to solve their dilemmas. Paul Bettany is the ship’s surgeon and Captain Jack’s best friend, engaging in spirited cello and violin duets in between discussions and debates on matters of the crew and their mission.

Master and Commander is a gorgeous film. According to the IMDB, much of it was filmed on actual ships, which makes the entire enterprise feel that much more real and involving. The special effects are seamless on account that I didn’t notice any. How often does that happen? More importantly, I just got plain old sucked into this film. I’m a sucker for a story about team, all with specific skills, facing insurmountable odds that will test their will and abilities. Yup, I’m in.

Period films often seem boring and dull because of how people talk in them. The dialogue can sound very dry as if the past was a very stale time and things only got interesting once spaceships were invented. Master and Commander overcomes this issue by containing characters with passion and interest, as it should. If you’ve been put on a ship and cast out to sea to do battle, where if you die your body will be cast into the ocean, you better be a little bit interesting. Every face in Master and Commander tells a story, from the old man who survives brain surgery at sea to only spark paranoia, to the young boy who loses an arm in a cannon attack but never loses his excitement for being a part of this ships crew. There are all kinds of characters in Master and Commander, but not one whiny asshole. Who knows, their might have been a guy like that but they threw him overboard before the movie started. When the camera panned over a row of dead sailors near the end of the film, I actually felt sad, sighing as each cold, motionless face was passed by the camera. You touched me, movie.

The battle scenes are clear and vicious. This film does not fuck around when it comes to cannon battles, not to mention the damage resulting from a cannon battle. So vicious is the attack at the beginning of the film I seriously doubted whether any of the characters were going to make it. I can’t rag on a film that owns its violence like that. Fist bump, Peter Weir.

For the first edition of Torture or Treat, I’ve found myself with one hell of a treat. Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World does more than its fair share of work redeeming the period piece along with delivering a great Russell Crowe performance. Maybe I do want to see Crowe in more period pieces. What’s his next movie? Robin Hood? With the director of Gladiator? Ugh, maybe not.

(Do you have a recommendation for Torture or Treat? Leave it in the comments below.)


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3 Responses to “Torture or Treat- Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World

  1. Mary Says:


  2. gnomesdeplume Says:

    Another great review, sir. I’d forgotten how much I love this movie.

  3. Justin Says:

    “Three cheers for Lucky Jack!”

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