Movie Review: Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World (2003)

Title: Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World
Release Date: November 14, 2003
Director: Peter Weir
Production Company: 20th Century Fox | Miramax Films | Universal Pictures |
Samuel Goldwyn Films

From time to time, someone on Twitter asks “What movie do you think mosts deserves a sequel that never got one?”  My answer is always Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World.  The 2003 film is based on details from several of Patrick O’Brian’s novels in his 20 book series about Captain Jack Aubrey and Dr. Stephen Maturin (I read about half of them before my interest petered out). I personally think The Fortune of War, which is primarily set in Boston during the War of 1812, would make for great source material for a movie sequel.

I saw the movie on the big screen in December 2003 and it’s the subject of one of my earliest movie reviews.  Despite being wowed by the movie on the big screen, I haven’t revisited it until now, partly inspired by a recent episode of The Cine-Files podcast. Well, I have to say that this movie is still impressive on the small screen.  The special effects and sound design are amazing.  But best of all the movie really gives one a sense of everyday life on the ship – the drudgery and the terror of battle as well as camaraderie and beauty.  It’s a movie with a lot of action scenes but not afraid to slow down to set the mood and establish good character moments.

Russell Crowe seems perfectly cast a “Lucky” Captain Jack Aubrey, while Paul Bettany is great as the scientific and introspective (albeit ignorant of anything nautical) Dr. Maturin.  While they are the big stars, this is really an ensemble movie and everyone is well cast. The historical detail of young boys of noble families serving as officers in training is well represented, especially by Max Pirkis who steals scenes as Lord Blakeney. Of course, the ship HMS Surprise is a character as well.  While I’m not really someone into war and masculinity as presented in this movie, it really is an excellent work that deals with themes of leadership, friendship, and persistence very well.

Rating: ****1/2

Book Review: The Far Side of the World by Patrick O’Brian

Author: Patrick O’Brian
Title: The Far Side of the World
Publication Info: Prince Frederick, MD : Recorded Books ; [United States : Distributed by] Borders, [2003], p1994.
Summary/Review:  The tenth book of the Aubrey/Matrin series finds the HMS Surprise rounding Cape Horn and sailing the Pacific in search of an American ship harassing whalers, the Norfolk.  This book is one of the main sources for the film Master and Commander: Far Side of the World although there are some huge differences.  I have to say I liked the movie better although I usually like the one I saw/read first.

Rating: **

Book Review: Treason’s Harbor by Patrick O’Brian

Author: Patrick O’Brian
Title: Treason’s Harbor
Publication Info: [Ashland, Or.] : Blackstone Audiobooks, 2005.
ISBN: 0786137215

Summary/Review: The nautical adventures of Aubrey and Maturin continue.  This is an average story that includes some interesting spying intrigue, Stephen Maturin in a diving bell, a mission to Egypt, and a blessedly complete absence of Diana Villiers.  Other than that it’s a bit bland and feels like it’s there to connect to the next novel more than anything else.

Rating: ** 1/2

Book Review: The Ionian Mission by Patrick O’Brian

Author: Patrick O’Brian
Title: The Ionian Mission
Publication Info: Blackstone Audiobooks (2005) [Originally published, 1981]
ISBN: 0786179333


This book is a bit of a return to form after the domestic and on-shore dramas of the previous two books in the series.  Aubrey and Maturin head east to Turkey to fight (or not) the French and make alliances with local Turkish leaders.  Lucky Jack is reunited with HMS Suprise although he takes a big blow to his reputation, Stephen does some spying, and there are some rollicking adventures and sea battles.

Rating: **1/2

Book Review: The Surgeon’s Mate by Patrick O’Brian

Author: Patrick O’Brian
Title: The Surgeon’s Mate
Publication Info: Blackstone Audiobooks (2005), Edition: Unabridged, Audio CD
ISBN: 0786177845


The Aubrey/Maturin series picks up where The Fortune of War left off, and the surgeon’s mate of the title is not Stephen Maturin’s surgical assistant but his on again/off again romantic interest Diana Villiers. I’m always turned of by the Villiers storylines because she is a dull and disagreeable character.  Fortunately the Maturin-Villiers story is balance by some seafaring adventure and battles, spying and intrigue, and even our lead characters locked in a French prison.  I’m a bit thrown by the timeline as it seems this book takes place 4 years prior to The Fortune of War but it’s a rollicking good tale all the same.

Rating: **1/2

Book Review: The Fortune of War by Patrick O’Brian

Author: Patrick O’Brian
Title: The Fortune of War
Publication Info: W.W. Norton & Co. (1991) (Originally published in 1979)
ISBN: 0393308138


Patrick O’Brian wrote 21 books of naval adventure set in the early 1800’s featuring the rough but amiable Captain Jack Aubrey and his friend the ship’s surgeon and spy Stephen Maturin.  I like to think of these books as Jane Austen for men.  I read the first five books back in 2003 and enjoyed them well enough but found them difficult to read since I kept stumbling over terms like “fo’c’sle.”  Now I’ve discovered that the BPL has the Aubrey Maturin series available for free download as audiobooks so I can blissfully listen to the books, naval vocabulary and all.

Our heroes Aubrey & Maturin find themselves passengers on other British ships for most of this book.  The first ship burns and sinks, the second ship is captured in battle with the USS Constitution, and the third…  Well, I won’t give away the ending but it has better fortune than the first two ships.  The main part of the book is set in Boston where Jack & Stephen are held as prisoners of war during the War of 1812 and Stephen finds himself in the midst of covert spy activity with the French who are also in town. There are a number of humorous moments (including a Bostonian who allows the proper English is spoken in Boston even as far west as Watertown) and some crisp, detailed ship-to-ship battle scenes.

I don’t know if it’s the audiobook or that the book is set in Boston, but I like this book better than any of the others in the series so far.  I look forward to listening to further installments.

Rating: ***

Movie Review: Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World (2003)

In 2019 I found some old Word documents with movie reviews I wrote back before I had a blog. I’m posting each review backdated to the day I wrote it.

Title: Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World
Release Date: November 14, 2013
Director: Peter Weir
Production Company: Miramax Films |  Universal Pictures | Samuel Goldwyn Films

Adventures on the high seas never looked so good.  Every detail from the youthful officers ordering around the salty old sailors to the ship suffering through all sorts of torment from sea, weather and battle.  It’s not all testosterone though as in-between the battles there is the joy of scientific discovery as well as debates between the captain and the doctor regarding humanity.  There’s also a tense amputation scene and a do-it-yourself surgery.  A bit cheesy is the French sailors – who aren’t supposed to be French at all – demanding surrender in outrageous accents.  The final battle is a confusing muddle, but I suppose that adds another layer of authenticity.

Rating: ****