Master and Commander

First, let me say that I’m not a big Russell Crowe fan, on or off screen. He’s not my type, at all. So the fact that he’s in Master and Commander, did not predispose me to it; if anything it might have swayed me against it. That said, it’s interesting to realize that as a woman, I’m not attracted to him. But if I were a man, I’d follow him to the far ends of the earth.

photo: still

Russell Crowe doesn’t so much play Jack Aubrey as become him. You never have the feeling that Crowe’s donned a costume. He seems of the time and place.

Captain Jack is not a “manly-man”. He’s not about bluster or muscle-flexing or bedding the hot babes. He knows it’s not about him. It’s about the mission. His eyes are on the prize, not on the mirror. No, he’s a man’s man: a man perfectly in command of the situation, the man to whom all eyes look in a moment of crisis, a man who inspires our confidence in him and instills confidence in ourselves. Things will be because he wills them to be. Is this the difference between ego and egotistical. Jack Aubrey has a strong sense of self and purpose. Only his best friend, ships surgeon Dr. Stephen Maturin, sometimes wonders if Jack’s isn’t a selfish purpose. Master and Commander explores complex relationships other than romantic ones. Maybe that’s why this movie is such a tonic to anoth movie we saw this week, Love Actually, which seems insipid in comparison.

What elevates Master and Commander above the typical action movie, is that it’s not about the action. It’s about men taking action. The characters in this movie are not pawns to the plot; they are not in place just as props for a body count. Nor is Master and Commander about following or fulfilling a destiny (LOTR, Matrix, Star Wars). It’s about making your destiny. This is a time before doubt, before self-loathing, before twentieth century existential angst. Purpose is clearly defined. Everyone has a job to do and everyone depends on you doing your job. If you waver, you are lost. It is brutal, but exhilarating. The reviewer in our local paper complained that this movie was too serious, that there was no joy. I find it incomprehensible that anyone could fail to be moved to joy watching this movie. Time and again you want to give a rousing cheer. It’s simply thrilling, especially watching everyone fall into place and do whatever needs to be done. They think quickly and act more quickly.

If, as a child, you were thrilled by the voyages of the Starship Enterprise, stirred by the words of Captain Kirk, inspired by the camraderie of a crew, then be happy. This is the grown-up version of that dream–meaty, not cheesy, with no saccharine or other artificial additives.

Bottom Line: Highly recommended. Sign me on for another voyage.

3 Responses to “Master and Commander”

  1. jqs Responds:

    Sort of a nice change not having every dialog steeped in epic prose. The people seemed more real, more alive, more individual, because they didn’t have to stand for anything larger. I think you liked it, though, because people worked as if their lives depended on it. Which, of course, they did.

  2. Dana Scragg Frank Responds:

    Speaking of their lives depending on it, how about School of Rock? Jack Black had so much rock and roll passion that now I can quote him if my children try to dis the rock meisters that came before all the softy poseurs now.
    Anyway, I hadn’t planned to see Master and Commander because it seemed too claustrophobic on a ship and way too salty for my tastes–although I love the ocean (just not the roiling ocean)–but your review is swaying me in the other direction. Although we don’t get out to movies much, but I’ll rent it for sure. I still have Mystic River first on my list and haven’t gotten there yet. We saw School of Rock on Saturday and then on the way home rented Holes They were both great and the whole family loved them.

    Claustrophobic? Not in the least. It’s not ‘Das Boot’. The sea is a big place.

    I’ve never really been much into the seafarin’ life. I don’t really like water. Even in the wonderful series ‘Swallows and Amazon’ my favorite tale is the most land-locked, ‘Swallowdale’.

  3. mjn Responds:

    Yes I saw Master and Commander…and I loved it! Your review was very accurate and representative of the views I had. It was almost like living aboard the ship with the crew.

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