Master and Commander: The Far Side of The World

By Casey Toner

“Master and Commander: The Far Side of The World” is like a space epic, like a really good “Star Trek” movie (I suggest “Star Trek: Insurrection” or “Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan”) set aboard a sailing ship.

Set aboard the seas during the rising Napoleonic wars, Captain Jack (no, not that captain Jack) Aubrey (Russell Crowe) is sent to explore, with his 197-man crew, the boundaries of science; to discover and capture new animals, insects and birds.

In this case, Aubrey and company sail to the steaming paradise of the undiscovered Galapagos Islands.

-But after being followed and fired upon by the French, Aubrey’s peaceful mission diverges into a tactical naval war pitting a slower British ship against the much stronger and swifter French one.

It would be a great injustice to director and screenwriter Peter Weir to say this “Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World” is just another high-budget, mindless action flick, or a giant middle finger to the French.

On the contrary, the shots alone, set against a pretty pallet of blues, greens and grays, are too pretty to share the limelight with such cinematic waste.

Russell Crowe, as much as I hate to admit, is a masterful actor, as evidenced in his latest role, if not already proven in “Gladiator” or the Oscar-deserving “A Beautiful Mind.”

Crowe is an actor at the helm of his game, deftly stirring emotion and humanity into his characters without appearing too heavy-handed or abrasive.

Even in the most dramatic, emotional moments, such as when Aubrey orders the crew to send one shipmate to his grave, Crowe does not cave into an emotional, indescribable bag of goo.

“Master and Commander” moves fairly quickly, unfortunately not stopping for any true conflict, aside from the ever-looming French fleet.

Yeah, crew members die and get injured and his ship gets half blown to pieces, yet I never felt any panic or urgency for the story to come to a resolution — the film was just too pretty and the boats were just too cool to want resolution, to want the film to be over.

And when the conflict came to a resolution, I left feeling little or no rectitude, instead feeling the same kind of warm, gratified happiness I felt throughout the film.

An honest feeling that, although shallow, boldly goes where few films are too scared to even try.