Plot: What’s it about?
Captain Jack Aubrey (Russell Crowe) runs the HMS Surprise, a ship in the Royal Navy assigned to find and eliminate a French vessel known as Acheron. The rival ship has all of the advantages it would seem, with better speed and power, so the mission isn’t an optimistic one. But Aubrey isn’t shaken in his resolve and he pushes his crew forward, venturing into dangerous waters in pursuit of the French vessel. When the Acheron is able to ambush the Surprise on a fog filled morning, the cause seems lost, but Aubrey’s quick thinking enables his ship to survive and retreat. As time passes, Aubrey has to not only prepare to continue his search for the Acheron, but also deal with day to day issues on the Surprise. Even against incredible odds, can Aubrey lead his crew to complete their mission or is he simply too outclassed?
Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World is not adventure on the high seas, but it is a well crafted drama that never fails to entertain. The movie has two big set pieces on each end, but the bulk of the film is straight drama. Even at over two hours however, the film is able to keep the audience’s attention, thanks to great performances and superb direction. This is as close as you can get to a life on the sea without boarding a ship, as the filmmakers have built such a realistic, immersive atmosphere. The visuals put you there, the audio puts you there, the attention to detail puts you there, so the realism is there for sure. Russell Crowe gives a fine effort in the lead, but the cast as a whole is quite good to boot. This is like a throwback to intelligent, bid budget Hollywood movies, so Master and Commander is well recommended. I don’t know if fans will want to upgrade, given the marginal improvements, but the movie itself shouldn’t be missed.
Video: How does it look?
Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World is presented in 2.40:1 anamorphic widescreen. I had high hopes for this transfer, but in the end, it offers a minimal upgrade at best. I knew some of the scenes had an inherent softness, but some scenes should look sharp and they simply don’t. The detail level never picks up really, if I hadn’t known beforehand, I wouldn’t have known this was a high definition release. The film often has a lot of grain, as intended, but the noise reduction methods used cause that grain to stand out more than it should. In conclusion, this looks a little better than the DVD, but not enough for most people to worry about another purchase.
Audio: How does it sound?
This lossless DTS HD 5.1 option is tremendous and really showcases the film’s impressive sound design. From the first minute to the last, all of the speakers have to work overtime. The atmosphere of being on the open sea is so immersive here, you might think you’re in the crow’s nest yourself. The surrounds are active almost constantly, with environmental touches that pull you into the movie’s world and when the big set pieces arrive, the surrounds really go into overdrive. The power is booming, with deep bass from the cannons, so this mix is very, very memorable. The thunderous surround use never overpowers the dialogue however, while the music sounds excellent as well. This disc also includes Spanish and French language tracks, as well as subtitles in English, Spanish, Cantonese, and Korean.
Supplements: What are the extras?
New to this high definition release are a historical trivia track and a pop-up map option. The map option is quite cool, as you can bring up a map at any point to see the geographical location of the current scene. Not mind blowing, but cool and a welcome addition. As usual, Fox has left off a lot of supplements from the DVD version, but a couple goodies made the transition. Almost half an hour of deleted scenes, as well as the film’s theatrical trailer have been included.