After conquering mathematics in A Beautiful Mind, Russell Crowe focuses his attention to the French in Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World.
Portraying Captain “Lucky” Jack Aubrey, an English naval officer during the Napoleanic Wars, Crowe commands the H.M.S. Surprise in a search-and-destroy mission for the French warship Alcheron.
The movie breaks down into a game of strategy between Captain Aubrey (Crowe) and the leader of the French vessel as they chase and battle throughout, with both captains plotting their best shots in this deadly winner-takes-all feud.
The film is really at its best when Crowe and Paul Bettany (also Crowe’s A Beautiful Mind co-star) get to share screen time.
The two characters add a human touch to the story that sometimes gets lost during the combat scenes. Their friendship seems genuine and heartfelt.
Director Peter Weir has done a magnificent job crafting an authentic, calculating film, a film that immerses and abandons you onboard the cramped ship to fend for yourself.
Crowe confidently manages the boat and its men as if slipping into the role of the determined leader was like slipping on an old hat.
Aubrey is a compelling character, radiating on the screen, and demanding a fourth straight Oscar nomination as he would demand servitude from his crew.
Dr. Stephen Maturin (Bettany) gets to play Crowe’s colleague and conscience, acting as a reel to bring Crowe’s obsession with destroying the Alcheron back into focus. Bettany’s humanity and non-interest in war are a welcomed change of pace in the story.
But the screen seems to light up every time Crowe is on hand, as if he were somehow illuminating the entire set. He’s really mastered his acting craft and has, in recent years, been given the movies to show that.
Master and Commander is another victory for Crowe.
Brian Mulligan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org