There's something not quite right about my reviewing this movie – being a woman and all. Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World is pure testosterone. This will basically be the equivalent of a man writing a review for Legally Blonde – nevertheless, despite my femininity, I found a way to enjoy this movie so I'll give it my best shot.
This one goes out to all the home boys in the beis medrish. Take a break, go find your best friend (or look across the table at your sweaty chavrusah), and take him along. I can assure you there are no more than thirty seconds of female footage, and guess what? – they're fully clothed. The closest thing to a love story in this film is a sincere friendship between Captain Jack and his old pal Doctor Stephen Maturin. So put down your sefer and go buy yourself a ten dollar soda at the theater (for a quarter more you can get the large).
Yes, this movie is the male version of a chick flick (a “man movie” if you will), set during the Napoleonic Wars. It's the story of a captain who leads his crew into battle against a ship twice their size. Captain Jack Aubrey (Russell Crowe) is a strong captain who refuses to accept defeat no matter what the cost. Stephen Maturin (Paul Bettany) is the ship's doctor and also serves as Captain Jack's conscience and friend. The two characters make an interesting combination. Jack is the strong warrior and Stephen is the brainy doctor. Their friendship plays an important role in the film as the two contrasting personas need each other for balance and reason to get through frightening combat.
One cannot avoid recalling A Beautiful Mind here as Crowe and Bettany starred in that film together as well. In both films Bettany plays Crowe's best friend who helps foster a side of Crowe's character that he couldn't acknowledge on his own. Of course in this movie Bettany is not a hallucination of a schizophrenic mind. He plays a very real doctor of reason and intellect. Stephen adds an endearing depth to Jack by helping him move beyond the rough 'undefeatable captain'-like exterior and adds a quality of rationality and compassion to his character. Crowe also makes his character easier to identify with, because instead of being a cocky brute that is always willing to sacrifice the life of his crew for victory he shows a great deal of inner conflict and a love for the members of his crew.
The cinematography is a spectacle for the eye as director of photography, Russell Boyd, shot everything out in the open waters of the world. We are exposed to all of nature's mystery and wrath; severe weather conditions, a display of creatures found in the frigid depths of the sea and in the far reaches of the globe. Most of it is really quite beautiful and it gives a unique taste of what life is like on the open sea.
In terms of action and combat scenes you may have your 'edge of the seat' moments, but this film is not going to give you the same satisfaction with choreography and gore that, say, Kill Bill would