Two tremendous early-19th century sea battles comprise the bookends for director Peter Weir's ambitious "Master and Commander: The Far End of the World," an adaptation from two of Patrick O'Brian's celebrated British epic maritime novels that is accurate down to the bloody palm prints of injured sailors steadying themselves on five-and-a-half-foot ceilings below decks.
The film has no story arc to speak of -- it's just a Napoleonic-War cat-and-mouse game between the handsome 28-gun English frigate HMS Surprise and the Acheron, a faster, heavier, better-armed French privateer that Captain Jack Aubrey (Russell Crowe) has been ordered to "sink, burn or take her as a prize" before it can round Cape Horn and spread the war into the Pacific. But even as a linear tale of battle strategy and personality that lacks a first act, the film is so well acted and well crafted that it engulfs you in its time and place where "the oceans have become the battlefields."
Opening with a formidable cannon-fire showdown in which the Surprise is caught unaware by her enemy emerging from a fog bank, "Master and Commander" jumps fearlessly into the fray as the British sailors fight for their lives and escape a French boarding party only by limping their battered ship with its shot-away rudder into the same fog bank and vanishing in its blanket of hazy billows.
Continue reading: Master & Commander: The Far Side Of The World Review
Take a look back at October's inaugural event.
The film is expected to continue without Mendes' involvement.