Master and Commander starring Russell Crowe

Movie: Master and Commander

Set in 1805, during the Napoleonic wars, Master and Commander chronicles the pursuit by a British vessel – the Surprise – captained by Jack Aubrey (Russell Crowe) of a French privateer. Most of the movie takes place on the high seas, as the magnificent sailing vessels race around South America.

The skill and teamwork required of the crew in order to sail these ships is incredible. The battle scenes – loading and firing cannons and manoeuvering the ships – are terrifying, and one is reminded how brutal war is. There is a peculiar dignity in these battles, however, as the combatants can see each other and are evenly matched. Since they’re fighting at sea, there are no civilian casualties. There’s also a harrowing episode during which the doctor (Paul Bettany) has to perform surgery on himself, and one is reminded how far medical care has progressed in the last 200 years!

The Surprise stops in the Galapagos Islands, and there’s a beautiful interlude during which the ship’s doctor is able to indulge his love for naturalism before the chase begins again.

Master and Commander starring Russell Crowe
Master and Commander starring Russell Crowe

This is an epic (literally – it’s’ long!) movie, meticulously made. Russell Crowe gives an excellent performance as Aubrey, and the tall ships are almost characters themselves as they dominate the action to such an extent. They are filmed from above and also from the viewpoint of the crew, so their full scale as well as the detail on board is apparent.

The soundtrack is magnificent (both the captain and ship’s doctor play string instruments and derive much pleasure from duets together) – you may remember the trailer to this movie featuring one of Bach’s Suites for Unaccompanied Cello (Suite No. 1 in G Major), which captures the spirit of the open sea to perfection.

The DVD is available at or

Published by


Lapsed mathematician, creator of order, formulator of hypotheses. Lover of the ocean, being outdoors, the bush, reading, photography, travelling (especially in Africa) and road trips.

One thought on “Movie: Master and Commander”

Leave a Reply