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movies > master and commander

master and commander: the far side of the world

As the men chase the mysterious and shrouded boat into the horizon, you're instantly gripped by the way that these men went out to seas alone and led only by their captain, without communication with any central command. The devil is in the details they say, and Master and Commander manages all of these deftly and in a way that doesn't make you want to snooze in your chair. In way, it's a pitch perfect historical reenactment, like something you'd see on The History Channel, but bloodier and with more sawing of limbs.

As Captain Jack Aubrey, Russell Crowe simply lives and breathes the character. Usually, Crowe is one of those Tom Cruise types - you never forget that it's him. But in Master and Commander, he manages to bring a gruffness and maturity that I've never seen from him before. Likewise, Paul Bettany is great as Dr. Stephen Maturin - a combination surgeon / scientist with one foot always planted in the logical and the safe. The two friends debate the decisions on the boat with a passion and differing effects. Although they may not always agree, it's obvious that they both love what they do.

I was surprised how much I loved this movie. Also surprising is the Academy Award nominations that Master and Commander garnered. I'm not saying that it's undeserved, just surprising. Because instead of being a boring historical document, Master and Commander is an exciting, historical action-drama that balances that fine line between the drama and the action. There's definitely something here for everyone.

If anything, Master and Commander is successful in the way that sucks you into every aspect and detail of the story. The perfect juggling act of historical intricacies, surprising plot turns and great action are all aspects to savor. It's the kind of movie that makes you want to actually pick up the books (I have mine on order.) This is one boat trip I would take again.

Extras:
Man, this surprised the hell out of me. I loved the extras on this disc, and that's probably due to the fact that they were produced by David Prior, who has done two of my favorite extra packages: Fincher's Fight Club and Panic Room. I love these extras because there's no fluff or EPK material. Just great interviews and great materials. I have to list them, since there's so many. Patience.

The Hundred Days / 1 hour, 10 mins
A behind the scenes that actually gets behind the scenes, instead of after it. Excellent.

In the Wake of O'Brien / 20 mins
Writer / Director Peter Weir describes the difficulty of adapting the books and describes the his love of the novels. It was this extra that sent me careening to Amazon.com to buy a handful of books to read.

Featurette: Cinematic Phasmids / 30 mins
This is not only the CGI extra, but also immensely fascinating. Model ships, computer modeling, compositing - they used every trick in the book.

Featurette: Sound Design / 18 mins
It takes what could be a very dry subject and spices it up with great footage of the crew getting the right sounds for the movie and then showing how they're melded together in a cacophony of sound.

HBO First Look / 25 mins
The lightest extra, but it's still fairly comprehensive and entertaining.

Deleted Scenes / 25 mins
These are all interesting, but most likely cut for time.

Multi-angle / 15 mins
You get to switch between different dailies and comps for a variety of scenes.

Gallery
Tons of pictures and conceptual art.

Throw in some trailers (both for Master and Commander and other films - check out the pretty good I, Robot trailer / preview thingy.) and you've got quite the haul.

Overall:
I can't recommend this disc highly enough. It's certainly not a film for everyone: it's not a chick flick - a bunch of men packed together on the ocean, fighting and killing. But with the historical depth of the film and great DVD presentation, you should be proud to shove this on your shelf.

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