Wednesday, December 10, 2003

boat story

Last night, I saw Master and Commander directed by Peter Weir (Gallipoli, Witness).

Nicely muted performances. Russell Crowe, is an excellent actor who can sometimes appear to teeter on tics (like Pacino or Nicholson). His characters often have an underlying wild craziness about them. This worked very well in L.A. Confidential, but seems (to me) overdramatic in his last couple of big roles. Here he does a fine job as Captain Jack Aubrey, the slightly pudgy naval warrior, a lover of the violin, of life on the sea, a fellow who embraces engagement in battle over caution, and who is above all else wily and playful. He commands the boat, and he commands the screen. There is a moment in the movie when he confronts a young midshipman who is weak and cowardly. As he confronts this youth, one cannot help but notice that the Crowe fully embodies the zest of his character.

It is his eyes that work most on the screen. Sad eyes. Angry eyes. Amused eyes. We read his character through them.

Paul Brettany, who played the blond headed "friend" of Crowe's math professor in A Beautiful Mind is the red-headed Irish doctor, Stephen Maturin, the everyman who knows not sea life, but who has a passion for nature, also one for music. He is a most appealing actor, impish and smart.

There is a tenderness in Weir's depiction of this harsh world, the British navy at the beginning of the 19th century during the Napoleonic wars. He inserts a gentle patriotism that fits the story, a speech where Aubrey ala Henry V tells his crew prior to battle that their little wooden world that they are defending is "England."

The special effects did not overwhelm. I'm not a big fan of action movies, and for me the action scenes did not distract from the story.

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