Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World [Blu-ray]
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A ship's commander in the Royal British navy finds his vessel and crew in ruins after a surprise attack from an unseen foe. Now, he and the ship's doctor must work together to insure that their duty is protected as they pursue the mystery ship half way around the world.
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There are few things bad to say about it. The special effects are splendid and well crafted. The plot is great and the characters are sympathetic. It is a sophisticated movie-one which will not patronize over you with a lowest common denominator appeal. On the contrary it exercises the mind as well as stirring the heart with discussions of nautical technology, sailor folklore, music both classical and folk, and even a smattering of philosophy. But it also has as much action as any movie, without the action being stupid or cartoonish.
It has no sex(except a couple bawdy jokes). There is little swearing. The violence is as much as needed but it is not sadism porn, nor does it deceive anyone into thinking that violence is not real. It needs none of those things. It reminds people that war is not a game, but not by superfluous gore, but by showing tragedy. It does not "glorify war"; it glorifies heroism. It needs none of these crude attractions and is to fine a movie to stoop to them.
It is a very good movie for young people, for it shows friendship, honor, leadership, and a masculinity that need not be barbaric to be manly. And it shows boys growing up in an adult setting and looking for men to emulate. A boy can identify with one of the young midshipmen and be improved rather then degraded. Yet it will appeal to his natural emotions by showing how to harness them rather then repressing them or giving in to them. If he desires a role model and desires to imagine himself a hero this will go far toward showing those things in a healthy way. And if it strains the mind a bit it strains it no more then needs to be strained. It is an intelligent movie but not an overrefined one and it is a great display of the kind of tale that has always stirred humanity when done well. As I said it shows tragedy but tragedy is not the dominant theme. Heroism is.
It is also realistic. The hardships of life at sea and the horrors of Napoleonic warfare are shown well. Combat scenes look just real enough to strike home. Splinters fly when shot hits the ship, and hand-to-hand fighting bears little resemblance to Errol Flynn. And there are few historical errors and those can be tolerated.
All in all it is a terrific movie and should be watched. And watched again.
The audio is the real spark that ignites Master and Commander, bringing life to the action. This was apparent even in the DVD version, but the Blu-ray goes beyond the excellent sound quality of the earlier release. Listen to the battle scene at the beginning of the film when cannons fire, the projectiles rip through the air and slam into the hull of the Surprise, splintering the wood, sending men and debris flying. Modern audio design involves a blend of sounds created in innovative ways. For example, the sound of a fist hitting someone's face is often created by recording a head of lettuce thrown onto a hard surface. Another excellent scene for evaluating the audio is as the Surprise chases the Acheron around Cape Horn. Here, the audio conveys the howling winds, torrential rain, creaking planks of the ship and the crashing waves. Rarely if ever have Blu-ray fans been treated to an audio mix with this combination of resolution and immersion. Even during quieter scenes, the audio quality is uncanny in its realism. Sonic cues like the sounds of water and footsteps lend good presence to the DTS HD MA track. The rich midrange during the Bach viola and cello pieces, as well as voices and gunshots have a strength and palpability rarely heard in home theater mixes.
Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World was one of the most commercially underappreciated movies of 2003, hands down. Thankfully, Fox didn't deliver a half-hearted DVD release...in fact, the overall quality of this 2-disc set really took me by surprise. Sporting a fantastic technical presentation, the high production values of Master and Commander really shine through, making this as close to reference quality as I've seen yet.
It's a great film!!!
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