In the midst of the Napoleonic War Captain Jack Aubrey (Russell Crowe) is in charge of the H.M.S. Surprise with orders to seek out and destroy a French War vessel. But as Captain Aubrey discovers during their first encounter the French vessel is a much bigger and quicker ship than the Surprise leaving him at a distinct disadvantage. Undeterred Aubrey single minded in his focus to complete his orders pushes the Surprise and its crew to their limit in a pursuit across the Pacific. But Aubrey's determination causes conflict between him and his close friend Stephen Maturin (Paul Bettany), the ship's doctor and an avid keen naturalist. But as they get closer to their target it maybe the creatures which Maturin studies which will inspire Aubrey to overcome the seemingly impossible.
Can you imagine what it must have been like aboard one of those old war ships when they end up taking damage and need to make running repairs. Rather than engineers able to repair fuel lines and pumps the men on board would have needed joinery skills to patch up splintered wood and sewing skill to repair the sails. That is what Peter Weir's "Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World" wants to do, give you a glimpse of life aboard one of these old sail ships where there was not only the works to deal with but a chain of command where often young cadets would find themselves in a position of privilege over old sea dogs.
But alongside this we also have Aubrey's obsessive nature when it comes to completing their orders but also maintaining order aboard the ship no matter how cruel he comes across. As such "Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World" is very much about the character of Captain Aubrey, his love of the sea and his guiding hand on the young cadets under his command. But it also means it is also about the character of Stephen Maturin and his friendship with Aubrey, the respect they have for each other and the knowing when the other is annoyed with what the other is thinking.
All of which makes "Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World" a thinking man's movie as whilst there is an epic quality to the movie with some stunning action and visual effects it is more about the characters and the people. For some that will undoubtedly disappoint, especially those expecting fun and action but for those wanting more than popcorn style entertainment this has plenty to become involved with.
What this all boils down to is that "Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World" is still a very powerful movie, beautifully shot and just as beautifully acted delivering for me the right balance of depth and entertainment.