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



Average Rating: 7.6/10
Reviews Counted: 208
Fresh: 176 | Rotten: 32

Russell Crowe's rough charm is put to good use in this masterful adaptation of Patrick O'Brian's novel.


Average Rating: 7.7/10
Critic Reviews: 44
Fresh: 40 | Rotten: 4

Russell Crowe's rough charm is put to good use in this masterful adaptation of Patrick O'Brian's novel.



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Average Rating: 3.4/5
User Ratings: 139,352

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Movie Info

Director Peter Weir's first turn behind the camera since 1998's critically acclaimed The Truman Show, Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World is based on two Napoleonic War-era adventure novels in author Patrick O'Brian's Aubrey/Maturin series, Master and Commander and The Far Side of the World. Russell Crowe stars as Captain Jack Aubrey, a high-seas adventurer who maintains a strong bond with ship-surgeon Stephen Maturin (Paul Bettany). After conquering much of Europe already,


Drama, Action & Adventure

Peter Weir

Apr 20, 2004


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All Critics (208) | Top Critics (44) | Fresh (176) | Rotten (32) | DVD (46)

Thanks in no small measure to Perfect Storm designer William Sandell, this handsomely mounted actioner exudes the authentic tang of salt, sweat and gunpowder.

June 24, 2006 Full Review Source: Time Out
Time Out
Top Critic IconTop Critic

It never achieves the visual elegance or majesty that a David Lean might have provided. The story line isn't the freshest. And yet the film is satisfying all the same.

August 7, 2004 Full Review Source: New York Magazine/Vulture
New York Magazine/Vulture
Top Critic IconTop Critic

If this is the stuff that rings the bell on your macho meter, go with my blessing.

November 25, 2003 Full Review Source: New York Observer
New York Observer
Top Critic IconTop Critic

To put it plainly, two ships playing tag across the seas is no longer my idea of whoopee, especially at a time when grown-ups are popping up all over the screen with uncensored stories of the eternal affinities and all their variations.

November 25, 2003 Full Review Source: New York Observer | Comments (8)
New York Observer
Top Critic IconTop Critic

A gentleman's action movie.

November 15, 2003 Full Review Source:
Top Critic IconTop Critic

A plain old good movie.

November 14, 2003 Full Review Source: USA Today
USA Today
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Intense battle scenes and a strong story of friendship.

December 26, 2010 Full Review Source: Common Sense Media
Common Sense Media

Peter Weir makes the Surprise a world to explore, not a splashy CGI simulation. Like a human body, the boat stays afloat through complex processes. A knockout mix of organic elegance, reflective drama and aggressive action on par with Sir David Lean.

September 19, 2010 Full Review Source:

an expansive cinematic achievement that sits well against such adventure classics as Lawrence of Arabia, and is a sure bet for fans of ocean bound drama.

May 12, 2009 Full Review Source:

A stupendous production, Master and Commander satisfies as richly as a book might, immersing us in a world of its people and its places.

October 18, 2008 Full Review Source: Urban Cinefile
Urban Cinefile

It's an undeniably square, throwback movie, but there's no major crime in making 'em like they used to, and doing it this elegantly.

March 11, 2008 Full Review Source:

A stunning technical achievement.

July 14, 2007 Full Review Source: Big Picture Big Sound
Big Picture Big Sound

Too closely cropped to allow for the expansive feel of an oceanic epic, and fails to develop any meaningful relationships among its characters.

April 22, 2007 Full Review Source: Princeton Town Topics | Comments (11)
Princeton Town Topics

Through its emphasis on characters and not merely action, Master does not let us forget that all individuals are souls with flesh and blood, not merely empty casualties of war.

September 26, 2006
Christianity Today

An enjoyable nautical adventure that gives us hope that Peter Weir can still make impressive movies.

August 8, 2006 Full Review Source: Cinema Sight
Cinema Sight

The best boy's adventure of the year.

December 6, 2005 Full Review Source: Film Threat
Film Threat

Although the movie runs into some problems during its bloated second act, the ending is rewarding enough to make it all worthwhile.

July 5, 2005 Full Review Source:

A quite sturdy and enjoyably romp through the ferocious Pacific high seas.

May 4, 2005 Full Review Source: Lessons of Darkness
Lessons of Darkness

Oak solid and unsinkable, Master And Commander is old-fashioned entertainment crafted with considerable care.

April 6, 2005 Full Review Source: Empire Magazine
Empire Magazine

One keeps waiting for Russell Crowe to slip up and star in a bad movie and so far he's gladly been able to disappoint us -- well the good news with Master is that he's done it again.

April 2, 2005 Full Review Source: Dark Horizons
Dark Horizons

If nothing else, Master and Commander proves that Russell Crowe is a true blue movie star.

March 5, 2005 Full Review Source: NYC Film Critic
NYC Film Critic

Weir, one of the few directors who is both an artist and a threat to the box office, triumphantly returns...

January 15, 2005
Looking Closer

An exciting but reactionary film

November 17, 2004 Full Review Source: | Comments (2)

A vastly entertaining and noble motion picture. Spending two hours and 20 minutes with Aubrey and crew is high honor.

October 15, 2004 Full Review
Kansas City Kansan

The film shows how wonderful it is to be a Hollywood Captain instead of a real captain.

October 7, 2004 Full Review Source: | Comments (4)

Audience Reviews for Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World

Interesting to see how naval battles were fought in the early 1800's. If only they knew then what we know now. To the chagrin of some of his senior crew, Cptn Jack Aubrey sets out to defeat a technically superior ship.
December 23, 2011

Super Reviewer

Peter Weir's adventurous period drama was ambitiously conceived, magnificently executed. The film is set in 1805, during the time of Napoleon's near-total power over Europe. Jack Aubrey (Russell Crowe) has taken his small South American ship, the HMS Surprise, and his crew to the Pacific Ocean, planning to intercept any French fleet. The problem arises when a French frigate enters the Pacific--a much larger, more powerfully armed ship.

At this point, I'm positive director Peter Weir can never let an audience down. After seeing his 1985 collaboration with Harrison Ford (WITNESS), and his 1989 collaboration with Robin Williams (DEAD POETS SOCIETY), I was more than excited to watch this 2003 collaboration with Russell Crowe. I think MASTER AND COMMANDER is by far the best of the three films I've seen by Weir.

Full Review:
December 11, 2011

Super Reviewer

Master and Commander based on the Aubrey/Maturin novels by historical author Patrick O'Brian is, unfortunately a mediocre film that doesn't quite cut it. The books are terrific, filled to the brim with rich descriptions of that time. The novels are beautifully written, highly entertaining and above all brilliant. But, this is not the case with this film adaptation. Before, I go any further, I loved the look of the film, and I thought director Peter Weir captured the look of the period perfectly. Unfortunately, a good looking film doesn't necessarily mean it's a good film. Master and Commander is a mediocre film that could have been much better than this, considering that the books are wonderful. Despite the somewhat lacking material on-screen, the performances delivered by the actors, especially Crowe and Bettany are terrific. I've enjoyed what I read by Patrick O'Brian and love the historical aspect of his works. Unfortunately, Master and Commander is a boring film that nothing happens for long periods of time. Don't get me wrong, I absolutely love films where it takes time for the plot to unfold, but unlike the book, this film went nowhere. I saw this in the theatre and the audience seemed bored. Peter Weir is a good director, but with this film, he just doesn't cut it. Considering that the books are filled with adventure, action and are exciting to read; the film adaptation of Master and Commander could have been an exhilarating adventure film, and though it somewhat captures the essence of novel, this is a mediocre film that doesn't deliver what the books do so well. If you haven't seen this film, read the books instead, they're better and better conceived. Master and Commander for me was a disappointment.
November 12, 2011
Jeff "The Dude" Lebowski

Super Reviewer

2003 was an interesting year for nautical films. A revival of sorts almost happened, but not quite. In that year there was Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl and this film. While that one was a rip-roaring action film that proved to be great for popcorn entertainment, this film takes a more intelligent and artsy approach, proving to be a technical masterpiece that will mostly appeal only to some, namely due to lots of quiet moments of dialogue, sparse action scenes, and a greater eye for attention to detail and period accuracy.

This film has a story, and it's a good one, but it's not about the plot. It's more about the characters, namely the two principals: the strong captain played by Russell Crowe, and his friend- the ship's docter and naturalist played by Paul Bettany. Both are terrific in their roles, drawing apt comparisons to Sherlock Holmes and Watson.

This is not a film for everyone though. A lot of people may find it boring, and I'll admit, there could have been another action scene or two, and some more development with some of the other characters, but all in all, I found this to be a very fascinating film. I know some but not a lot about the nautical world of this time period, but from what I do know, this film gets a great deal of it correct, and that's something I really appreciate. If you ever wanted to know about the ins and outs of being on a early 19th Century British warship, than this is the film for you.

The film was nominated for many Academy Awards, but only came away with a couple. One of those, however, was for cinematography, and that one was well deserved. Then again, this is a Peter Weir film, so I kind of expected that. I also liked that the film used a mixture of techniques to get thingsdone, including models and replicas, instead of putting too great of a reliance on cg. Something I found quite striking was the music. There's not as much of it as you might think, adding to the atmosphere and setting greatly.

If you want a movie that is both thrilling (at times), yet has very high artistic merits, then you really need to see this. Despite a few nitpicks, I thought it was amazing. There needs to be some sequels to this one, and I'm surprised they haven't happened yet. Someone make it happen.
May 23, 2011
Chris Weber

Super Reviewer

Movies Like Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World

    1. Dr. Stephen Maturin: Jack, I fear you have burdened me with a debt I can never fully repay.
    2. Captain Jack Aubrey: Name a shrub after me. Something prickly and hard to eradicate.
    3. Dr. Stephen Maturin: A shrub? Nonsense! I shall name a new species of tortoise after you: Testudo Aubrey!
    – Submitted by Feli Y (21 months ago)
View all quotes (1)

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