Driven, charismatic Jack Aubrey, the captain of HMS Surprise, engages in noble battle against the Acheron, a mighty French vessel, off the coast of Brazil during the Napoleonic Wars.

CAST: Russell Crowe, Paul Bettany, Billy Boyd, James D'Arcy, Lee Ingleby, George Innes, Max Pirkis, Mark Lewis Jones, Richard McCabe, Robert Pugh, David Threlfall, Max Benitz

DIRECTOR: Peter Weir

"The battle sequences are filmed with impressive coherence and rigor, but ‘Master and Commander’ is, if anything, most thrilling between skirmishes…Mr. Bettany, sensitive, quick-witted and easygoing, makes a fine sidekick for the fierce Mr. Crowe…Mr. Weir's direction is appropriately old-fashioned, which is not to say that it is staid...'Master and Commander’ hums with humor, passion and life." --A.O. Scott, The New York Times



"…brawny, bloody, ridiculously over-budgeted seafaring epic…a big bore, with so much mumbling by Russell Crowe that it needs subtitles…I longed to rush home for a rerun of ‘All the Brothers Were Valiant’ with Robert Taylor, Stewart Granger and Ann Blyth, but this movie refused to end…The overrated Russell Crowe still impresses me as an overgrown baby with cholic who is always on the verge of spitting up its formula…Most of his lines sound like they’re being swallowed with a mouth full of porridge." --Rex Reed, The New York Observer

"…an exuberant sea adventure told with uncommon intelligence; we're reminded of well-crafted classics before the soulless age of computerized action…it re-creates the world of the British navy circa 1805 with such detail and intensity that the sea battles become stages for personality and character…There are scenes at sea, including the rounding of Cape Horn, which are as good or better as any sea journey ever filmed, and the battle scenes are harrowing in their closeness and ferocity…‘Master and Commander’ is grand and glorious, and touching in its attention to its characters. Like the work of David Lean, it achieves the epic without losing sight of the human, and to see it is to be reminded of the way great action movies can rouse and exhilarate us, can affirm life instead of simply dramatizing its destruction." --Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times

"It plays like an earnest National Geographic mockup striving to give us the flavor of periods and places past…Crowe and Bettany were heaps more fun as a psychotic mathematician and his fantasy toy-boy in ‘A Beautiful Mind’ than they are as this pair of old biddies…a dull and boring film, pretty as a Turner landscape and as sweetly becalmed as the glassy Sargasso Sea in which the men of the unfortunately named Surprise find themselves trapped for what felt, to me at least, like weeks on end." --Ella Taylor, LA Weekly

"…a rousing high-seas adventure that sweeps you into another world…That world has been rendered in vivid historical detail by director Peter Weir… This isn't a theme park; it's a movie with the confidence to let a story build. Bettany brings a keen gaze and sly humor to the doc. He is a formidable match for Crowe, who continues to astonish as an actor. Aubrey is fair-minded and well liked, and could be as dull as the ship's bilge water. But Crowe -- fierce, funny and every inch the hero -- gives a blazing star performance." Peter Travers, Rolling Stone

"‘Master and Commander,’ directed by Peter Weir from the first of the late Patrick O'Brian's 20 naval adventure novels, is a spectacle at once burly and detached…the movie resounds with muffled shouts and thundering cannonballs; it pre-supposes a certain nautical interest or at least a taste for salty sea-dog sing-alongs… Crowe delivers a star performance in his trademark incarnation as the thoughtful roughneck…‘Master and Commander’ (why not ‘Belt and Suspenders’?) is amply stocked with rote characterizations and conflicts; it alludes to the fantastic discomfort of life at sea and delicately looks away…This is an exercise in civility—a tasteful Boy's Life adventure." -- J. Hoberman, The Village Voice

"Bettany, squinting through his spectacles, offers a winning blend of the eager and the retiring…some of Crowe’s line readings are so low and growly that you must strain to catch them; we have come a long way since the ocean was the province of lithe, laughing hearties such as Burt Lancaster and Errol Flynn …What the novels leave us with, and what emerges more fitfully from this film, as if in shafts of sunlight, is the growing realization that, although our existence is indisputably safer, softer, cleaner, and more dependable than the lives led by Captain Aubrey and his men, theirs were in some immeasurable way better—richer in possibility, and more regularly entrancing to the eye and spirit alike." --Anthony Lane, The New Yorker

"The film is an immersion tank of old-movie memories and attitudes about heroism and fighting the good fight. As soothing as this can be, it’s not enough—at least not for those of us who want more from movies than the reassurance of remembered enjoyments recast with new faces…The director of ‘Gallipoli’ and ‘The Year of Living Dangerously’ has muffled the rage and darkness of his best work in favor of an antiquated pleasingness. ‘Master and Commander’ is a too-comfy classic." --Peter Rainer, New York Magazine

"What makes ‘Master and Commander’ so bracing and transporting -- what makes the movie feel unlike any adventure film you've seen before -- is the precise detail and care with which Weir places us aboard the HMS Surprise… one of the many facets of Crowe's subtle, complex performance shows how the captain inspires his men, like a Knute Rockne of the high seas, and convinces them that the impossible really is within their grasp… It's a ride few movies, if any, have ever been able to offer." --Rene Rodriguez, Miami Herald

"It comprises too many equal parts, and they tangle each other up. Everything is important, which comes to mean that nothing is important…the thing feels weirdly overstuffed, as stories keep stumbling into and over one another or are buried beneath the arrival of other stories…Crowe is outsize in the old movie-star fashion, a stern face, a stout body, a formidable presence, but the movie idealizes Jack Aubrey to a somewhat irritating degree…As for Bettany, this was to be the picture that would make him a star, and it won't. The movie is so pitched to Crowe that Bettany doesn't imprint with any singularity… The young actor Max Pirkis [pictured above], who plays Midshipman Lord Blakeney, is terrific in the part, easily the master and commander of his elders." --Stephen Hunter, The Washington Post

"Over the Oscar horizon comes ‘Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World,’ an awesome, old-fashioned pirate epic…this movie is as gorgeous and gripping as it is faithful to the spirit of Patrick O'Brian's celebrated series of historical novels…No video game can compare with the storms and travails that beset the Surprise as she makes her way off the coast of Brazil and around Cape Horn, complete with real storm footage from the actual route…‘Master and Commander’ will take your breath away." --Jami Bernard, The New York Daily News

"The film contains brilliantly crafted scenes and shots that are as compelling as anything seen onscreen this year, but there are also dull stretches in which the movie seems lightweight…for all the blood in its battle scenes and the grim historical accuracy of its depiction of antediluvian medical procedures, the story of ‘Master and Commander’ feels like something intended not for adults but for children." -- Mick LaSalle, San Francisco Chronicle

"… a thoughtful, rousing and beautifully crafted epic starring a commanding Russell Crowe as the captain of an 1804 British warship…Crowe exudes movie-star magnetism at the same time as he once again completely disappears into his character…Crowe has a superb foil in the bespectacled Bettany, another chameleon of an actor, who may clinch an Oscar nomination for the scene where a wounded Maturin is forced to operate to remove a bullet from his own abdomen." --Lou Lumenick, The New York Post

"The movie works -- as an epic, as intimate drama, and as an intensely focused portrayal of a small wooden city on the sea…Crowe buries his charisma and gives us an intuitive jock who thinks not with his brain but with his men and his ship…It's the opposite of the sexy beast of ‘Gladiator,'’ yet you immediately grasp why Jack's men follow him nearly to Antartica and back…The film does lose steam after its climactic battle -- the dialogue turns self-conscious, and Crowe and Bettany suddenly seem somehow smaller, like an early-19th-century Kirk and Spock. This is not a good thing." --Ty Burr, Boston Globe

"The national mood could hardly be more right for Peter Weir's ‘Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World,' a rousing and magnificently crafted 19th-century warship saga that handily dispenses with pesky questions about ulterior motives, civil liberties, and recalcitrant indigenous populations that bedevil our country's present-day engagements…The shots might be cluttered with ropes and pulleys and masts and mizzenmasts, but the storytelling is lean and shapely…‘Master and Commander’ hooks you from its nifty opening salvo to its nifty closing punch line." --David Edelstein, Slate

"This is Mr. Weir's best movie in ages, conveying the subtle sense of mystery that underlay ‘Gallipoli’ and ‘The Year of Living Dangerously.’ I do have a nit to pick regarding Crowe, who relies more on his winning smile than his emotional versatility to bring Aubrey alive. In all, though, this is a rip-roaring adventure combining edge-of-your-seat battle scenes with vivid historical details and more fascinating characters than most action movies dream of. Add heartfelt acting and Russell Boyd's atmospheric camera work, and you have the adventure movie of the year." --David Sterritt, The Christian Science Monitor