The story of the first major battle of the American phase of the Vietnam War and the soldiers on both sides that fought it, while their wives wait nervously and anxiously at home for the good news or the bad news.
In April 1805 during the Napoleonic Wars, H.M.S. Surprise, a British frigate, is under the command of Captain Jack Aubrey. Aubrey and the Surprise's current orders are to track and capture or destroy a French privateer named Acheron. The Acheron is currently in the Atlantic off South America headed toward the Pacific in order to extend Napoleon's reach of the wars. This task will be a difficult one as Aubrey quickly learns in an initial battle with the Acheron that it is a bigger and faster ship than the Surprise, which puts the Surprise at a disadvantage. Aubrey's single-mindedness in this seemingly impossible pursuit puts him at odds with the Surprise's doctor and naturalist, Stephen Maturin, who is also Aubrey's most trusted advisor on board and closest friend. Facing other internal obstacles which have resulted in what they consider a string of bad luck, Aubrey ultimately uses Maturin's scientific exploits to figure out a way to achieve his and the ship's seemingly impossible goal. Written by
Some of the signal flags hanging from Surprise when under the sun did exist in the Napoleonic era as per the contemporary "Telegraphic Signals or Marine Vocabulary" created by Sir Admiral Home Popham and published throughout the period of the Napoleonic War. An original scan of the 1803 version is online and an 1806 version can also be found.
However, utilizing the codes, it seems they possibly signal starting at the mizzenmast:
"Telegraphic Signal (red/white diagonal) then send "392" ended with a "substitute" flag. Possibly standing for "impossible-ility" the flags on the mainmast seems to indicate "602" or "part-ed-ing-ition" without a "Finished" flag as per the 1803 and 1806 code books referenced above. This doesn't seem to mean much of anything and may have been the crew hanging random flags.
As an aside, Popham's Signals were famously utilized by Nelson at the Battle of Trafalgar when he signaled: "England expects that every man will do his duty." See more »
Prelude (From the Unaccompanied Cello Suite No. 1 in G Major, BWV 1007)
Composed by Johann Sebastian Bach
Performed by Yo-Yo Ma, cello
Courtesy of Sony Classical
By Arrangement with Sony Music Licensing See more »
See this film NOW at the best, state of the art theater you can find. You'll know why five minutes in.
I didn't want to leave the theater when this roller coaster rhapsody to sea soldiery circa 1805 was over. It's stirring entertainment. No love interests needed. This was what it was really like. One ship, 197 men, 4500 miles from home. Chasing a French ship twice her size. No retreat.
Pirates of the Crappy Be-in was a cute romp, but Master and Commander has real ships, real crews, real cannon,convincing characters, historical accuracy and a REAL film director.
Director/ Peter Weir (Witness) has returned big time and, with this one film, revived classic Australian realism, actually surpassing the production values of Peter Jackson's Ring Trilogy. This is not a fantasy film, but history - painstakingly recreated. And rousing history it is, with plenty of action AND robust character development. The adaptation by Weir and John Colley is right on target, brimming with great characters and scenes.
And Russel Crowe? Other than "The Insider", this is his best role ever. Gladiator was just a warm-up. A Beautiful Mind? Well, nice acting from the neck up. Go see this if you want to see both his athleticism and his formidable acting chops! And he decent musical gifts as well (RC studied violin for the role).
I've always thought Weir was one of our great directors. Now he's been given all the toys Peter Jackson enjoys. And Weir uses them to great effect - recreating a nautical reality that lacks nothing except the need to wipe your face every ten seconds. The cutting of Russel Boyd's fabulous photography is perfect. You get to know every inch of the ship, topside and down below. You also get a strong sense of the social dynamics on board - how men got along with each other for so many months. I felt swept along in a perfect mix of virile action and characters I could get to know and care for. One thing I loved was the constant caring between many of the men along the rank and file. There's a strong sense of honor and decency in the film. Yet enough grog flows to keep things loose.
This is vigorous stuff and my most thrilling two hours in a theater for a while. Congratulations to everyone involved.
For now, the best director Oscar goes to Peter Weir over Clint Eastwood (Mystic River)in 2004. Master and Commander is my pick for best picture, just because it is so masterfully realized. A stunning, exhilarating, and - at last - realistic action saga.
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