Master and Commander is based on Patrick O'Brian's series of novels called Aubrey/Maturin about the British navy during the Napoleonic Wars. The film takes place in 1805, when the French rule the high seas. An English vessel, the HMS Surprise, roams the same oceans looking to carry out the official order of intercepting any French ship they encounter. The captain of the Surprise, Jack Aubrey (Russell Crowe), refuses to accept defeat at the hands of the French and is willing to carry out his assignment at any cost.
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He's certainly not wasting his newfound talents.