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DVD Reviews: Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World

The Final Say!

Review Score
Reviewed by Tory Favro
Review Date: April 2004
Distributed by:
20th Century Fox Home Entertainment
Running Time: 133 minutes





Russell Crowe stars in this sea adventure as Captain Aubrey, skipper of a british fighting ship, HMS Surprise during the war with the French. What follows over the next couple of hours are some great moments on the sea in the form of battles, and some pretty rough sailing conditions for the captain and his crew. This story deals with Aubrey's command of the Surprise and their orders to stop at all costs, the French ship Acheron. When the Acheron attacks Aubrey's ship out of the middle of a pea soup fog unexpectedly, the game of cat and mouse begins.

Invariably one draws the comparison to Gladiator and whether or not this was meant to be on the same scale as that wonderful movie. If that was the case, then the answer is sadly no. The story is good and I must admit that I enjoyed it quite a great deal, however you will not constantly be awestruck (or oarstruck if you wanted the pun that you must have expected.) This film is a good solid piece of storytelling that is worth the bang for your buck however is not enough to justify itself as an epic of the scope that Gladiator was on.

In terms of cinematography, Master and Commander is absolutely stunning with scenes that will shock and amaze you as the reality of the lack of medical aid in the 1800's is brought to the fore. It doesn't depict the doctor of the ship as barbarian, rather as a highly educated man, using the tools and technology that is available. Possibly one standout moment on the medical front was when one of the men has a crushed part of his skull and the doctor places a coin over the hole and then sews it shut. Before you shudder, the injured man makes a full recovery!

Some of the tactics used during the battles are amazing and it is truly a matter of man against man as the captains of two ships try to outwit each other constrained by their own technology and the elements. When the wind dies, so does the ship's movement through the water. Whilst the movie does stay focused on Aubrey and his English crew, you do feel a sense of respect for the French captain of the ship Acheron, especially toward the end of the movie which I won't wreck by telling you.

Master and Commander is a solid piece of storytelling that will keep most audiences watching all the way through to the end. It probably isn't for everyone and for those expecting another Gladiator, this isn't it and that expectation is plain unreasonable as the two as so far apart to the point that they are not comparable in terms of story and style. Possibly another point I must make is that whilst I didn't notice the passage of time during the movie, two people who I watched it with later complained that whilst it was a good flick, they found it a bit long winded with a running time of 133 minutes.

I recommend this disc to anyone who loves a good solid story, combined with some masterful cinematography.


This title is 16:9 as you would quite rightly expect with beautiful detail throughout. For those who might suffer some motion sickness, this might even be one to miss as the camera does sway a bit in order to give the constantly feeling of being at sea. Once you do get used to it however, it certainly doesn't present a problem. That said however, I don't get motion sickness from either games or movies so at no time did I notice anything, it was an observation from a third party watching the feature with me.


You've got a choice here of the Dolby surround mix or the DTS one and having listened to both during the review I can say that they are both wonderful. In my opinion the Dolby won out just slightly as far as bass was concerned and the DTS won out in terms of overall clarity so my vote would go with DTS if your system supports this format. All the sounds of the ocean are hear for you to enjoy and every channel gets a heck of a workout.


There are some really neat features here on this two disc edition that do make it shine for folks who want to get the most out of the whole Master and Commander experience. There is a great featurette here called 100 Days that is a great insight into the period taken during principal photography. We go behind the scenes and generally get a really indepth look at what goes on behind the movie making process.

In the wake of O'Brian deals with Peter Weir generally waxing lyrical as to how highly he holds O'Brian and his involvement in the movie.

Cinematic Phasmids are a look at the special effects used in the flick and then on the flip side we look at the sound effects department and what it takes to bring a movie like this to the screen in a way that amazes both senses.

HBO First Look is simply that, a special put together by HBO that covers all the pertinent information about the feature itself and does utilise a number of images from other features that you might have already seen. All said though, it is a very concise package that makes for some good viewing.

Finally we have two last areas that involve watching multi angle shooting that allows us to see what can happen when shooting the same scene from different angles and then put them together to make the one scene. There are a number of options to see the end result and to top that off there is a stills gallery that whilst entertaining, didn't do that much for me.

  • The Hundred Days

  • In the Wake of O'Brian

  • Cinematic Phasmids

  • Sound Design

  • HBO First Look

  • Deleted Scenes

  • Multi Camera Shooting

  • Stills Gallery

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