Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World
2003
Set off the coast of South America during the Napoleonic Wars, this thrilling maritime drama pits "Lucky" Jack Aubrey (Russell Crowe), captain of the HMS Surprise, and his close-knit crew against a French privateer equipped with better weapons. This action-adventure, which won Oscars for Best Cinematography and Best Sound Editing, is based on the novels of Patrick O'Brian and co-stars Paul Bettany, Billy Boyd and James D'Arcy.

Scott Hardie: “It ruled.”

How well this film communicates the difficult but often thrilling life aboard such a ship is a great accomplishment, but its greatest is getting us so engaged with so many characters in such short time. The most underdeveloped is sadly the captain himself, as his best scenes are there to build up the characters around him, but Crowe’s abundant presence makes it seem as if he’s three-dimensional anyway. This is an exuberant action film of many emotions (perhaps the most moving of 2003’s cerebral blockbusters), but thematically it’s just as interested in seeing what brings out the best in humanity.

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