Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World tells the story of Captain Jack Aubrey (Crowe) and the crew of the HMS Surprise. When a sudden attack by a French warship inflicts casualties and severe damage upon his vessel, Captain Aubrey of the British Royal Navy is torn between duty and friendship as he embarks on a thrilling, high-stakes chase across two oceans to intercept and capture the enemy at any cost.
Personally this movie continues to growing on me. The first time I saw it in the cinemas I felt it was a little dull, but the more I see this movie the more I admire the attention to detail, the acting and direction, and the way in which the movie captures sea life. While Russell Crowe tends to divide opinion in terms of liking or disliking him, there's no denying that he is a fine actor, and Master and Commander is one of his best performances to date. Fortunately Russell is surrounded by equally impressive actors including Paul Bettany as his friend Dr. Stephen Maturin, Billy Boyd as Barrett Bonden and James D'Arcy as First Lt. Thomas Pullings just to name a couple.
Master and Commander is a finely crafted sea-fearing movie. In fact few movies set on the wildest oceans around the world have ever looked or sounded this good. The movie is based on the books by Patrick O'Brian - by books we mean that this movie actually takes events from several books in his series. I've never read the books so I can't comment on how much is taken from each book (there are 21 books in total) but obviously there is plenty of source material to draw future films from. While that isn't on the cards at this stage I do hope that we return to this world sometime in future. If you haven't seen Master and Commander then this is a movie well worth your time. If you've seen this before then you'll know exactly what to expect, and probably already have this on your shopping list.
Despite the fact that many scenes taking place at night or in poorly lit areas, this transfer exhibits minimal amounts of grain or noise and only a few scenes look a little out of focus slightly - very slightly - but that's an issue with the source rather then the encoding. During the battle scenes thousands of pieces of debris and parts of the ships fly around as they get torn apart, however the image remains clear and sharp at all times. To say that this release is an improvement over the DVD release is an understatement to say the least. The (impressive) DVD release doesn't even come close to the sharpness and clarity provided on this Blu-Ray disc and fans of the movie with 1080p HDTV's will be in awe at the clarity with some of the scenes.
Besides the English track the disc also packs in a Spanish DTS track encoded at 768kbps. It's not quite as clear as the DTS-HD Master Audio for English, but isn't a track you'll be disappointed with. Subtitles are provided in seven different languages including English for the Hearing Impaired.
Deleted Scenes (24:20/HD): Quite extensive deleted scenes which add a bit more to the storyline, but with the movie having a runtime of 2 hours 18 minutes it's clear to see why some of these edits were made. The scenes, with some incomplete effects and rough footage are presented in High Definition using the AVC MPEG-4 Codec with 2 channel Dolby Digital Sound.
Pop-up Map: Thanks to Java technology it is possible to bring up a small map in the bottom left of the corner while the movie is running so you can see where the ships are located in various parts of the movie.
Historical and Geographic Trivia Track: A fascinating trivia track which points out plenty of details about the movie, inaccuracies with actual events of the time, and production. If there is one complaint it's that the boxes that pop-up often take over a large part of the screen, when they could be put into the Black boarders due to the wide aspect ratio.
Keyword Search: Thanks to the power of Java this disc provides hundreds of keywords from the movie - locations, actors - which will then jump you directly to the scene in which it, or they are involved. Very impressive.
Bookmarks: Thanks, again, to Java you can now add your own bookmarks for the movie so you can return to your favourite scenes easily.
Review By: Dave Warner