Master and Commander (2003): The Far Side of the World (2003): Peter Weir’s Civilized, Stately Action Epic

Co-written, produced and directed by Aussie Peter Weir, Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World  is an historical epic set during the Napoleon era.







The film’s plot and characters are adapted from three novels in author Patrick O’Brian’s Aubrey-Maturin series, which includes 20 completed novels of Jack Aubrey’s naval career.

Oscar winner Russell Crowe plays Jack Aubrey, captain in the Royal Navy, and Paul Bettany is Dr. Stephen Maturin, the ship’s surgeon.

The film is told with impressive craftsmanship, but the narrative seems too familiar, too earnest to arouse the kind of excitement that other historical epics have generated.  The text is both sodden and repetitive, and Weir’s approach is too civilized and stately.

Visually, too, the film lacks the thrilling elegance of a David Lean or Kurosawa spectacle.  In other words, it’s a good and solid, but not great, picture. 

The film, which cost $150 million to make, was a co-production of  Fox, Miramax, and Universal, and released on November 14, 2003.

The film grossed $212 million worldwide and thus was deemed a commercial disappointment.

Oscar Context

Well received critically, the film was nominated for 10 Oscars, including Best Picture, winning two categories: Cinematography and Sound Editing.

But it lost in all other categories to The Lord of the Ring: Return of the King, which swept the Oscars that year.