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Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World is a 2003 movie based on several books of the Aubrey-Maturin series.

It stars Russell Crowe as Jack Aubrey and Paul Bettany as Stephen Maturin.

Plot Edit

In 1805, in the midst of the Napoleonic Wars, Captain John "Lucky Jack" Aubrey of the Royal Navy frigate HMS Surprise is ordered to pursue and destroy the French privateer Acheron, bound for the Pacific.

In the opening scene, midshipman Hollom briefly sees a dark shape in a fog bank and, after a moment's hesitation, raises the alarm and the captain is called. When nothing happens, the threat is dismissed. Aubrey tells the midshipman that he still did 'the right thing'. But as Aubrey scans the fog bank with his spyglass, the Surprise is suddenly peppered with cannon fire. The Acheron appears and the Surprise is hit repeatedly, causing severe damage and many casualties.The two frigates fight, but the Acheron's hull is too strong for the Surprise's shots to do much damage. In the calm, Aubrey orders the Surprise to be towed into the fog bank, where she evades the Acheron.

Surprise and Acheron in battle

After inspecting the damage, Aubrey decides to refit the ship as best they can at sea, and pursue the Acheron. The crew works to repair the ship while Dr. Maturin works hard to save the lives of the casualties including a young midshipman, whose arm he has to amputate, and an able seamen whom he gives surgery near his brains. Meanwhile, Aubrey learns from a crewman who saw Acheron being built that it is bigger, heavier and faster than Surprise, and the senior officers consider the ship out of their class. Aubrey notes that such a ship could tip the balance of power in Napoleon's favour if allowed to plunder the British whaling fleet at will. They resume the pursuit after stopping at a Brazilian port, but the Acheron again surprises them and they begin a day long pursuit. As night falls, the faster Acheron begins firing. By placing lights on a decoy raft, resembling the lights of the Surprise, they again evade the Acheron.

As they approach Cape Horn, the Surprise is closely following the Acheron, but they lose sight of the Acheron as both ships bring in sail in rising winds. When the mizzen top mast breaks and falls into the sea, a sailor named Will Warley falls in with it. The crew shout to him to swim to the mast to avoid drowning, but when they realise that the drag of the mast in the water is leaning the ship, Aubrey makes the painful decision to cut the mast loose, thus abandoning the man to his fate.

Aubrey tells his officers that he is heading for the Galapagos Islands, where he is certain the Acheron will be as that it is where Britain’s whaling fleet may be found. Maturin later tells Aubrey that the Galapagos are legendary to Naturalists such as himself. Aubrey promises the doctor that he will be granted several days of exploring on the islands.

When the Surprise reaches the islands, they find and recover the surviving crew of the Albatross, a whaling ship, burned by a “big, black, three-master”. Jack orders all hands to make sail to pursue the Acheron. This annoys the Doctor, who protests that Aubrey is breaking his word to let him explore, at which point the Captain replies that "we do not have time for your damned hobbies sir!"

Some days into their voyage from the Galapagos, Surprise is becalmed. The dead heat is starting to affect the crew to the point where they believe there is a bad omen on board. They single out a Midshipman, Hollom, as a Jonah, citing that the Acheron first appeared on his watch and also that he was scaling the mizzen when it broke above him at Cape Horn. A seaman Nagle is disrespectful and insubordinate towards Hollom. Jack witnesses this and orders that Nagle be arrested and flogged for disobedience, and later chastises the weak-hearted Hollom for failing to prevent this.

Later Hollom, believing himself to be the Jonah as he has been involved in many unfortunate incidents on the voyage, commits suicide by jumping into the ocean clasping a cannon ball, in front of fellow midshipmen Blatney (whose arm was amputated by Maturin). Eerily, the winds pick up and rain starts falling soon afterwards.

Dr. Maturin is accidentally shot by Marine Captain Howard (trying to shoot a bird the doctor was watching), and loses consciousness. The surgeon's mate Higgens informs Jack that unless the bullet can be removed Maturin will die, but to safely perform the surgery they need to be on land. A sail is spotted on the horizon ahead, believed to be the Acheron. Aubrey is now faced with a difficult choice: follow the ship, or save his friend. When Stephen regains consciousness, he realises that they have returned to the Galapagos and Aubrey has abandoned his pursuit in order to save him.

The Doctor performs the surgery on himself with the aid of a mirror. He succeeds in removing the musket ball and recovers quickly. He now has the opportunity to explore the Galapagos. He makes many scientific discoveries, including a type of flightless cormorant. From the top of a hill, he notices a large three-masted ship sailing into one of the island bays flying the French flag. The Acheron has returned. The Doctor is crestfallen that his trek will now be cut short but knows that he must return to the Surprise and inform Aubrey. During their return to camp, Maturin's bullet wound slows him down, forcing Padeen, his assistant, to release the specimens and carry the Doctor back to camp.

After observing the deceptive qualities of a stick insect showed by Blatney and Sephen, Aubrey has an idea. Surprise is disguised as a whaling ship.The Acheron takes the bait. The surprise then turns around and destroys her mainmasts, the Surprise crosses the Acheron's stern, raking her and inflicting many casualties and upsetting her cannon.

The final fight on the Acheron

Leaving the Surprise, Jack and Lieutenant Tom Pullings lead boarding parties onto the Acheron, but are ambushed themselves. Meanwhile, acting 3rd LT Peter Calamy leads a group to rescue the captured whalers. Blatney leads a smaller party into the gundeck with the doctor and the surgeon's mate. Master Allen, Nagle, Calamy, and many of the Surprise's crew are killed.

After seizing control of the ship, Aubrey searches the Acheron for her captain and is directed to the sickbay, where a man introducing himself as Docteur de Vigny tells him that the French captain has been killed and gives Aubrey the captain's sword. The Acheron and Surprise are repaired. Jack gives command of the Acheron to Pullings, naming him ‘Captain’ Pullings, and orders him to take the French ship to Valparaiso, while the Surprise returns to the Galapagos.

As the Acheron sails away, Stephen tells Jack that he is worried that the Acheron has no doctor except for Higgens. Aubrey thens tells Maturin of his talk with de Vigny. Maturin tells him that the Acheron's doctor had died months ago. Angered Aubrey gives orders Lt William Mowett to pursue the Acheron, Maturin is again denied the chance to explore the Galapagos. Aubrey wryly notes that since the bird Maturin seeks is flightless, it "isn't going anywhere."

Adaptation Edit

Most of the plot is taken from The Far Side of the World, but the American frigate USS Norfolk is replaced by the American-built French privateer Acheron in the film (the Acheron is based on 44-gun American frigates like the USS Constitution).

The stern chase around Cape Horn is taken from the novel Desolation Island, although the Acheron replaced the Dutch ship of the line Waakzaamheid, the Surprise replaced the Leopard and in the book it is Aubrey who is being pursued around the Cape of Good Hope. The episode in which Aubrey deceives the enemy by means of a raft bearing lanterns is taken from Master and Commander, and the episode in which Maturin operates on himself to remove a bullet is taken from HMS Surprise. Many of the movie's jokes are from Master and Commander as well.

Cast Edit

Notes and References Edit

External links Edit