214. Master and Commander (2003)

Film 82 in C4 Top 100 War Films

I wasn’t really looking forward to this much at all, as I’m not a huge Russell Crowe fan, and I’m not generally particularly keen on Hornblower-type films. However, it is actually rather exciting and swashbuckling. I might have to change my mind…

Crowe is Jack Aubrey, captain of the HMS Surprise during the Napoleonic war. Whilst defending Britain’s shores from French invasion, they come under attack from an American-built French ship, the Acheron.

The Acheron is heavier and much faster than the Surprise, but Aubrey decides they must follow and intercept. They go as far as Cape Horn and round to the Galapagos islands, where the ship’s doctor is allowed some leave, but when they spot  their quarry, they realise they must disguise the Surprise and lure the French in closer.

The film is very thrilling, and you can almost smell the gunpowder and sawdust. It’s a little gruesome at times, with limbs being amputated and men dying in unsanitary conditions. But what lets the story down is the tacked on piece about the ship’s doctor making rare discoveries on the Galapagos a good few years before Darwin – it seemed very unlikely and a bit ridiculous and added nothing of value to the film.


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