Wednesday, February 22, 2023


 by Adam Riske

Nominated for “Best Period Hair Styling” at the Hollywood Makeup Artist and Hair Stylist Guild Awards. It lost to The Last Samurai.

• Best Scene/Moment: The subplot about Midshipman Hollom (Lee Ingleby) being bad luck for the ship. My favorite aspects of Master and Commander are all the moments where the ship and its crew are depicted as almost a living organism complete with idiosyncrasies and superstitions.

• Best Song: “Prelude (From the Unaccompanied Cello Suite No. 1 in G Major, BWV 1007)” composed by Johann Sebastian Bach and performed by Yo-Yo Ma.
• Best Merch: A “Huge Vinyl Movie Poster” of Master and Commander with a starting bid of $50.00. It measures 5’ x 9’ 6”. It would have been the perfect poster for Andy Dufresne to have in his jail cell if he were still locked up in Shawshank circa 2003.

• Director Check: Master and Commander was directed by Peter Weir. Weir began his career directing horror movies and mysteries including his debut feature 1974’s The Cars That Ate Paris, 1975’s Picnic at Hanging Rock, and 1977’s The Last Wave. Weir began the 1980s collaborating with fellow Australian Mel Gibson for two movies, Gallipoli and The Year of Living Dangerously. Weir had a massive mainstream hit with 1985’s Witness (which is awesome, btw) starring Harrison Ford and worked with Ford again in 1986’s The Mosquito Coast (I need to see it) which co-starred Helen Mirren and a young River Phoenix. Weir continued having mainstream success with 1989’s Dead Poets Society, which was well-received critically and financially and was nominated for several Academy Awards. Other credits of Peter Weir’s include Green Card, Fearless (which I also need to see) and The Truman Show. Master and Commander was more of a success on the awards circuit and critically than at the box office, which curtailed the initial hopes to adapt more Patrick O’Brian novels into a film series. Weir’s most recent movie was 2010’s The Way Back which appears to be Weir’s final film as he’s now unofficially retired (according to Ethan Hawke, who worked with Weir on Dead Poets Society).

• Double It with This 2003 Movie: The Last Samurai

• Year 2003 Movies to Trailer Before It: Cold Mountain, Gods and Generals, The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King
Draft Day or Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World? Draft Day

• Mall Movie? No, Peter Weir movies play at the fancy theater.

• Only in 2003: A 20th Century Fox, Miramax Films, Universal Pictures, and Samuel Goldwyn Films co-production.

• Scene Stealer: Max Pirkis, who plays Midshipman Lord William Blakeney, one of the child officers on the ship. I like his character arc and mentee relationship with both Russell Crowe and Paul Bettany. Plus, he looks like if Sting and Gordon Beckham were combined.

• I Miss (tie): When the Academy Awards only had five Best Picture nominees and Crowe-Bettany team-ups.

• I Don’t Miss: Napoleon.
• 2003 Crush: Probably a Russell Crowe man crush. I still like Russell Crowe as a performer but there were a few years in the late 1990s-early 2000s where I thought he was one of the most exciting actors around.

• 2023 Crush: Paul Bettany’s wife.

• What I Thought in 2003: I went to see Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World right after it received all its Oscar nominations and remember thinking it was good, but not quite my jam. I was in college and all “Where’s beer!?” and not “Peter Weir!”

• What I Think in 2023: I enjoyed Master and Commander quite a bit after this rewatch, which I had been meaning to get around to for nearly 20 years. In the time since its release, Master and Commander has been championed quite a bit and now that I’m older and somewhat wiser I completely understand. This almost works as a naval version of Star Trek (I know that’s pretty much what Wrath of Khan was too) with Crowe as Kirk and Bettany as Spock. I cared a lot about the characters by the end of the movie and was just as riveted during their conversations as I was the action sequences bookending the movie. This would’ve been a great, unique movie franchise (which was how everyone involved planned it). I wish this first entry performed better financially so we could have seen more Jack Aubrey-Stephen Maturin adventures.


  1. Have you seen the History Buffs video on the movie? It's really interesting and explain some historical things that seems weird to us modern people

    1. Thanks for the commendation! I'll check that out.

  2. I’ve owned Master and Commander for years but don’t think I’ve actually watched it. It sounds exciting and I like Peter Weir, so I don’t really know what the holdup has been for me.

    1. It is a really good movie. It's a must see.

    2. Definitely worth the watch. Hope you like it!

  3. Max Pirkis is also great in the HBO/BBC series Rome, as Octavian Caesar, who later become Augustus, as in, the guy the month August is named after. The show was a big hit at the time (albeit not big enough to save it from cancellation), but it feels weirdly forgotten to the Internet now. (Though History Buffs has two great videos on it, too.)

    I agree that Master and Commander is a very good movie, but I don't recall it quite reaching greatness. I recall the ending as being a bit meh, maybe because of the bloodless PG-13 combat, or maybe because there wasn't an identifiable villain to triumph over. But I should watch it again someday, as I may just have been too young for it then.

    1. The identifiable villain is "The French"! And on a more personal level, the captain of the French ship tricks Captain Aubrey by pretending to be a doctor, so there's a bit of protagonist vs villain stuff there too.

  4. Great 2K Replay Adam. Not just because I love this movie, but you nailed the best parts. One of the best bits were with Hollem. It's pretty affecting when the superstitious beliefs of the crewmates eventually drives him to kill himself, but the bit where the Captain is giving an eulogy, you realise he believes it too.

    Also, Midshipman Blakeney is one of the best characters! He gets an amputation and is still not discouraged. The bit where he's leading a charge into the other ship at the end is great. I love how it mingled in his friendship with the doctor and delving into science. As someone who studied in science, the whole portrayal of early science and how the the doctor serves both the medical role while pursuing his personal interests was great. That kid had a lot of "scene stealing" moments. And his friendship and support of Hollem was heartwarming.

    The whole friendship between Aubrey and Stephen, how it's a balance between their duties/loyalties, their personal interests, and their personal friendship. It's super duper really well done.

    The "Prelude" song is very good, and I love it because it's during the bit when the doctor and friends are out exploring the island collecting specimens for science. This whole soundtrack is fantastic. My favourite one is from when they have to cut the overboard sailor loose. Maybe I'm not looking at it as strictly a piece of music, but rather how it works in works in the scene. this is it here.

    The sound design on this movie is freaking fantastic. They did a bunch of work firing actual cannonballs and recording the sound they make when crashing through wood. This hasn't had a 4k release, but I'm hoping when it eventually does, it gets re-released into theatres. I really really want to see it on the big screen with a nice sound system. Hopefully one day.

    I've only seen a few of Peter Weir's movies, and I should correct that. I was hoping that Blank Check would cover him. I remember JB spoke very highly of Fearless.

    Paul Bettany's wife haha, agree, big crush.

    1. I'm glad you enjoyed it this time Adam. This is my favourite movie, so sorry if I went a bit long with my comments. I could watch this endlessly. I have another commitment, but otherwise I would through this on right now. Hope you don't wait 20 years to revisit it, because it gets better with each viewing. Thanks for writing about it!

  5. This is a funny coincidence, but just two days ago, I was playing a "Get to know your family Trivia game" and one of the question cards asked "What is your favourite movie of all time".....and they had to guess (which they came close with Star Wars first release) so I had the perfect opportunity to tell them I had seen Master approx. 21 times! I usually watch at least once per year, and can almost voice the script in unison with the movie! Paul wrote a brilliant recap above, and it reminded me of the scene when Blakely post-op was speaking with Crowe, and he handed him a book to read and Blakely asked " What sort of man that Admiral Nelson was" and Crowe said "maybe you should just read the book". I found that scene very touching, because Nelson is my all time "Super Hero" who like Blakely, started service as a young teen. And he fought so many crucial, massive sea battles, and a few on land as well, loosing sight in one eye, and one arm in battle. Although Nelson was small in stature, he was gigantic in Bravery, Cunning, and Love of Country & Service. That was a very poignant scene!