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Master & Commander (DVD)

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      06.10.2010 16:46
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      This dramatical seafaring adventure adapted from Patrick O'Brians novel about the British navy

      This dramatical seafaring adventure adapted from the 10th Patrick O'Brian novel about British naval hero Capt. Jack Aubrey, is set in 1805 and the war between the British & French. Off the coast of Brazil, the HMS Surprise is patrolling the South Atlantic waters searching for the elusive superior French man-o-warship Acheron with the orders to sink or claim her as prize.

      When Acheron materializes out of the fog like a phantom attacking the Surprise damaging her badly and injuring many of her crew, Aubrey is torn between a sense of duty to his injured crew and his duty to the Crown sets sail and engages in a battle of wits, seamanship and will against his unknown foe in a high stakes chase across the Atlantic in a mission that could turn the tide of the war. Blond haired Crowe portrays outstandingly Lucky Jack Aubrey as a witty, strong and charismatic Captain, a naval hero who once served as one of Nelson's junior officers with a reputation and well-earned respect from his men who will follow to the end of the earth and back again.

      Paul Bettany his co-star from Beautiful Minds is his loyal friend and confidant and ships surgeon / naturalist, Dr. Stephen Maturin. He is highly respected by the crew, and trusted to a point where many will pretend imaginary ailments to seek him out, to teach them to read or just to talk. Bettany's portrayal of this caring and gentle individual is exquisite. Their unique bond takes them through arguments and battles of their own and at the end of each day in a simple diversion to their cruel world their joint love of music. Crowe and Bettany spent weeks learning to play the stringed instruments you see them using in the film to give the scenes a realism although the music heard on screen was played and recorded by a professional each had to be movement perfect to match each note played. Their close friendship is proven when Maturin is shot and Jack returns to the Galapagos Islands so his fevered and bleeding friend can recover and all under the pretense of a good place to relax, at the whalers watering station and perhaps capture the rare delicacy, turtle meat without admitting his fear for his friends life.

      The officers and crew are eager for battle and an opportunity to distinguish themselves. However when battle comes, and once more the Surprise is out gunned and out witted by the French man-o-war the ships crew with their superstitions believe their luck is turning bad they are convinced they have a Jonah on board. One of the Officers, Hollom, the indecisive and timid Midshipman played by Lee Ingleby. Whispers spread around the ship as one unlucky event afte the other occurs. Soon paranoia sets in and Hollom finds himself an outcast from the rest of the crew with the exception of Maturin and young Blakeney played by Max Pirkis. Rounding the maelstrom of Cape Horn from east to west in a week long passage full of ice and snow and the continuous strong winds and current make it pure wretched gloom and finally sailing into the deep blue waters of the Pacific to archipelago of the Galapagos Islands.

      Maturin, sees the islands as a rich font of scientific information and exacts a promise from Aubrey to be allowed to explore the bleak yet bountiful archipelago. His naturalist interest is enthusiastic where he desires nothing more than to seek out and understand the small flightless cormorant like birds, the unusual black beetles or the iguanas that can swim is a herald of the future of scientific exploration. Later in 1833, the H.M.S. Beagle would later bring Charles Darwin to the island, where he would diligently monitor and examine the varied species, and ultimately lead him to publish his theory of natural selection. With superb performances from the large ensemble cast of young British actors from stage and screen including James D'Arcy and young Max Pirkis and Billy Boyd (Pippin from Lord of The Rings) as Barrett Bonden the Coxswain in this richly detailed and exciting nautical adventure of everyday life onboard ship reveals the gruesome and hardships of sailors during Napoleonic warfare where discipline on the ship is tight but although seemingly harsh, where failing to salute an officer earned you a flogging and on the sea where even children as young as 10 could not escape injury, amputation or even death in apprenticeships to become officers. Life on a war ship was harsh by modern measures.

      It's a story of friendship, camaraderie, trust and survival in a harsh environment where one minute a calm ocean can change into a maelstrom in a blink of the eye and only teamwork and trust in one's fellow shipmate will bring them out the other side. The Captain is irrevocably responsible for the well being of his ship and crew, during one scene Aubrey must choose between saving one man and saving his crew when a storm tears away part on a mast that could drag the ship to the bottom of the ocean.
      A powerful film with real characterisations and unique realism that gives you the feeling you are standing right there alongside the captain as a member of his crew feeling the fear and anxiety and excitement of the chase across an ocean.

      A commanding performance from Crowe with an excellent supporting cast in an admirable adaptation from Weir. Bravo for Peter Weir a well made and produced movie. The cinamatography is breathtaking the action scenes unbelievable and the effects out of this world.

      Cast
      Russell Crowe .... Capt. Jack Aubrey
      Paul Bettany .... Dr. Stephen Maturin, Surgeon
      James D'Arcy .... 1st Lt. Tom Pullings
      Edward Woodall .... 2nd Lt. William Mowett
      Chris Larkin .... Capt. Howard, Royal Marines
      Max Pirkis .... Blakeney, Midshipman
      Jack Randall .... Boyle, Midshipman
      Max Benitz .... Calamy, Midshipman
      Lee Ingleby .... Hollom, Midshipman
      Richard Pates .... Williamson, Midshipman
      Robert Pugh .... Mr. Allen, Master
      Richard McCabe .... Mr. Higgins, Surgeon's Mate
      Ian Mercer .... Mr. Hollar, Boatswain
      Tony Dolan .... Mr. Lamb, Carpenter
      David Threlfall .... Preserved Killick, Captain's Steward
      Billy Boyd .... Barrett Bonden, Coxswain
      Bryan Dick .... Joseph Nagle, Carpenter's Mate
      Joseph Morgan .... William Warley, Cpt. of Mizzentop
      George Innes .... Joe Plaice, Able Seaman
      William Mannering .... Faster Doudle, Able Seaman
      Patrick Gallagher .... Awkward Davies, Able Seaman
      Alex Palmer .... Nehemiah Slade, Able Seaman
      Mark Lewis Jones .... Mr. Hogg, Whaler
      John DeSantis .... Padeen, Loblolly Boy
      Ousmane Thiam .... Black Bill, Killick's Mate
      Thierry Segall .... French Captain Cert: 12
      Running Time Approx 132 Minutes
      Language : English
      Subtitles available for the hearing impaired

      Directed by Peter Weir
      Music composed by Iva Davies, Christopher Gordon and Richard Tognetti
      Master and Commander is available in both single disc and Box set, Collector's Edition double disc format

      Box set, Collector's Edition double disc format Disc 1
      Feature film
      First look at I, Robot
      Disc 2 Making of Featurette
      Peter Weir on Directing "In the wake of O'Brian" Documentary
      2 Special Effects Documentaries
      HBO Special
      6 Deleted scenes
      Multi-angle Scene Studies
      Still Gallery

      Thank you for reading

      Christine Preedy (c) 2010

      You can also find this review published in Ciao uk under my username of melodysparks

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        02.06.2010 23:39
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        A cinematic seafaring masterpiece

        2003 marked a welcome return to the silver screen for the seafaring epic. The Australian director, Peter Weir veteran of such films as 'Gallipoli', Dead Poets Society' and 'The Truman Show' delivered his take on the seafaring adventures of Jack Aubrey as penned by Patrick O'Brian. Totalling 21 books in all and based upon the relationship between Jack Aubrey and his trusted friend and surgeon Stephen Maturin, the delve into the trials of the Royal Navy during the Napolenic Wars of the early 19th Century. The film stars Russel Crowe as the brave, patriotic Aubrey and Paul Bettany as the trusted surgeon Maturin.

        The film begins with a short onscreen backstory in which we are told the year is 1805 and that H.M.S. Surprise under the command of Jack Aubrey has been ordered to pursue the French privateer Aceheron and burn, sink or take her as a prize. Unfortunately surprise is on the french side as the Acheron happens upon Aubrey and his crew in foggy conditions and in a devastating broadside, causes damage which forces the smaller British ship to flee and make repairs. What follows is an engaging cat and mouse game which will take Aubrey beyond his orders, round the South American coast and into the Pacific in pursuit of his prize.

        Lasting 138 minutes, Master and Commander is a peculiarity in that most class it as an action adventure whereas the total screentime of the action sequences total only around 20 minutes. The majority of the film is taken up by dialogue, mostly between Aubrey and Maturin engaging in the key arguements of life at sea and patriotism. That's not to say that is a bad thing, the exchanges between the two are as thrilling as any action scene in lesser hollywood blockbusters. Neverthelesss in the brief time that Weir chooses to show the reality of action at sea, the viewer is introduced to a brutal and unforgiving and often very bloody engagement in which the consequences for the defeated are frequently painful to watch.

        The leading stars are brilliant although I am perhaps slightly biased in my appraisal of Russel Crowe who I have been a long time fan of, but also Paul Bettany is more than a match for him, delivering lines that back up the validity of his characters arguements. The supporting cast, who are as usual in any Hollywood epic made up of mostly recognisible British stars of stage and screen fulfill their roles without ever detracting the limelight from Crown and Bettany.

        Weir as director ensures that the camerwork switches between the beautiful in terms of when Surprise visits islands off the South American coast to the brutally harrowing when Surprise is trying to navigate the Cape of Good Hope. And then there are the action scenes. Never before has this genre seen anything like them committed to celluloid.

        The soundtrack incorporates a rather nifty trick in that Aubrey and Maturin when note verbally sparring, will often engage in musical duelling with cello and violin. This means that classical pieces such as Bach's suites for unaccompanied cello and Mozart's violin concerto no.3 can be used as if played by the characters. I would advise you also pick up the soundtrack as it's definitely worth it for those more relaxed moments.

        The film itself is actually an adaptation of three of the novels, so purists, as with most Hollywood adaptations maybe a little disappointed. In terms of success it garnered ten Academy Awards and made well over $200 million dollars.

        The DVD comes with all the usual extras such as deleted scenes, making of documentaries and stills gallery. At around £5 it's not too big a dint in your wallet although as with most, if you have BluRay, you should opt for that. The visual take on an even more stunning outlook.

        It's another classic and perhaps an unexpected one given the dialogue heavy script. It's definitely niot light enough to be watched as merely mindless Friday night fluff, but I've enjoyed watching it many times and if there is one complaint I have is that so far the sequel looks unlikely. But fingers crossed, it definitely deserves it.

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          10.07.2009 16:40
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          An outstanding performance from Russell Crowe

          In 2003 Peter Weir made a historical seafaring epic, Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World. This exciting film is based on the first and tenth novel from the collection of 20 stories written about the ships that sailed the hazardous seas in the era between the Napoleonic Wars. Not only do we encounter the dangers of the ocean, and see life aboard the ships, we also get to know more about the two dynamic men; Jack Aubrey and Dr Stephen Maturin.

          Captain Jack, known as 'Lucky Aubrey,' is the one who exercises control over the British frigate, HMS Surprise. It is 1805 and Aubrey's frigate is sailing off the rugged coast of Brazil. The Naval demands have been made clear to him; The Surprise has to sink, set fire to or seize the enemy - a French war ship, Acheron, that has a greater number of men and more powerful weapons than the trusted but more ancient Surprise.

          A sudden attack introduces us to a chase that takes the two ships on an enthralling high-risk journey across the oceans, through the storm-lashing waters of Cape Horn, heading south through frozen waters of snow and shattering ice until finally reaching the wild, uncontrolled Galapagos Islands for a final battle between the two nemeses.

          There is mental pressure throughout the journey. Aubrey's personal desires collide with the welfare of his men. This tension is played out in the friendship with Stephen Maturin who is the ship's doctor. As the calm and considerate scientist, Maturin balances Aubrey's excesses with his mild wisdom.

          But from the beginning it is apparent that Captain Jack Aubrey is the crucial and most important character in the film, and I have to hand it to Crowe - his performance is excellent as the Captain of the Surprise.

          A seaman for most of the duration of his life, he loves to relate tales of his navy career. Most of the tales feature the infamous Lord Nelson. Aubrey began his naval life as a member of Nelson's crew and his admiration for the great captain and his old ship is obvious as he tells his men stories of the man's achievements and what it was like to be in his presence. Aubrey was greatly affected by Nelson's leadership and tries to mirror him as a captain. His love of the sea dominates his character but his love for his fellow sailors is also apparent. Through dangerous times he tries to lighten the men's load and as conditions are cramped and uncomfortable he tries to introduce a sense of humour to their daily routine. He is a fair captain and respects each and every one of his 197 crew.

          At one point Aubrey's loyalties to his country, the British Navy and his men clash. Here, we feel his inner turmoil. Although suffering mental anguish and pain he never falters and loses vision of his greater responsibility. Captain Aubrey has several dimensions to his character, and Russell Crow skilfully colours each dimension with intensity. From start to finish his presence commands your attention and respect. During the whole 139 minutes you know Crowe is in charge; his acting is never outrageous or exaggerated - only perfect.

          The character of Doctor Maturin is played by Paul Bettany. His performance is equally as masterful. Whereas Aubrey's life goal is to serve his men and country, Maturin's is not so dramatic. His loyalty to his nation is by tending to the sick and he is repaid by given the opportunity to travel the world to follow his dream, exploring the world of research pertaining to plants and animals. Bettany's role is one of a calm, complex doctor who has talented skills to treat the sick and wounded but at the same time he is the patient scientist just waiting for the next opportunity to explore biological research.

          Al the men aboard respect Maturin. They know that his skills may one day save their lives. Aubrey and Maturin don't always agree and they have different loyalties but at the end of the day their friendship is firm and true. It has been formed through a lifetime of service together.

          In most top action seafaring movies, most crew members act as props whose main purpose is to be blown to pieces in battle. In Commander, the seamen are acted by a good supporting cast who add a certain depth and thoughtfulness to the film.

          Max Pirkis plays Lord Blakeney - a doe-eyed, innocent youth who hasn't a clue about the horrors of the sea and what he will witness on the journey. Lee Ingleby plays the midshipman who is the central character in a sub-plot that circles the fable of Jonah. Not only these characters but all the rest of the crew show admiration for their captain. They trust him with their lives and expect him to be victorious in his leadership.

          All this human exchange is set against a brilliant backdrop including the frigate, HMS Surprise. This ship features a multitude of exciting and appealing technical effects, all of which blend coherently into some of the most stunning sea scenes ever. Having sailed in my family's own boat from Plymouth to Portugal I know what it's like to be in the dark on the deck when the wind is howling and the waves are crashing on board. I love the voyage scenes in this movie and my favourite is the journey around the Cape. I thought it was absolutely amazing.

          The man in charge of all this is Aussie director, Peter Weir, who I have admired over the years. He creates a perfect balance of the physical and emotional elements in this film. He follows the author's storyline. To create the authenticity of that time he even employed special historical and technical consultants for their expertise. Most of the movie was filmed in a gigantic tank - the same one as used in the filming of the Titanic. To create the beauty and everyday workings of the tall ship - a real one was re-fitted so it looked identical to a ship of that era.

          It may seem that Weir and his crew went to extreme lengths to create a film of such magnitude but I think the end result was worth it. What we see, is an accurate, historical account of life as it was aboard a tall ship on the chase and at war in that era. We witness the stomach wrenching storms, blazing heat, heady madness of battles and the sleep that came after to help heal the wounds and severe injuries. These experiences are intimate. As well as sharing the battles we see this close-knit family living in cramp quarters experiencing life's small pleasures like music, friendship and bottles of good rum.

          To summarise - this is a breathtaking epic with two brilliant performances from the lead actors and a strong back up team from the supporting cast. The filming of the sea voyages is spectacular and probably some of the best filming I have seen. It is thoughtful, stirring and adventurous. Even though there is action I like the fact that Weir emphasises the characters more and shows how real these men are and that they have hearts and souls.

          The film is rated PG 13 because of some of the intense battle scenes and strong language.

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            16.06.2009 16:52
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            8 out of 10 for me!

            Master And Commander - A 2003 film directed by Peter Weir (The Truman Show)

            Set during 1805 the Napoleonic Wars, Jack Aubrey (Russell Crowe) is the captain of a British ship, HMS Surprise. His crew refers to him as Lucky Jack and will follow him wherever he wishes through the high seas. Their admiration and trust in the captain is tested when they encounter a much larger French Warship, The Acheron.

            After losing the first battle, Aubrey makes it his destiny to hunt down the French ship and destroy it. Despite being outgunned and outmanned it is a test of cunning, maneuverability and wits and they stalk each other off the coast of South America.

            The story shows the comradery of the ships men as they live in close quarters for months on end at sea, following Captain Aubrey's commands and promising them victory.

            Dr Stephen Maturin (Paul Bettany from the The Da Vinci Code who plays Silas) is well liked by Aubrey and he tends to his naturalist side by allowing his on-shore to collect new species for scientific research.

            This film will have you willing on Lucky Jack as he plays cat and mouse with the superior French ship and its nautical prowess.

            An overall great film, with Russell Crowe giving a great acting display with keeps him up there with my all time favorite actors

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              27.05.2009 23:18
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              High seas adventure!

              Master and Commander is a very good historical movie. The plot about two war ships trying to outsmart each other and destroy the other one is basically simple, but the way it is told is so rich, that it feels like a lot more.

              I know that this movie is known for its historical accuracy, and after having seen it, I can totally believe that. It is very detailed, and while watching it, I could totally imagine that it really had been like that on a ship. The circumstances, as you might imagine, were pretty harsh, but those on board just looked on it as everyday life. For example, there were quite a lot of kids on the ship, young boys of maybe 11, 12. As the movie goes on, you realize they're not like the normal sailors. They wear slightly nicer clothes, and one of them is addressed as Lord, and at several points you see them being taught stuff, a small school class. They are of course the sons of nobelmen, and this is how they are trained to become captains one day themselves. It just seemed surreal to see the boys in that enviroment, and even more surreal to see the responsibility they're being given in battle. But it kind of makes sense - that is how those kids used to grow up.

              Russell Crowe is awesome as usual. His acting is pretty consistent throughout his movies, and this one is no difference. I also like that he learnt to play violin just for the one or two small scenes in the movie where his character does. I also loved the relationship between the captain and the ship's doctor. The doctor is not a naval/marine guy, and he doesn't always understand the tradition and mentality, which makes those two very interesting.

              All in all, enjoyable movie, the single disc version does not have many extras but the film alone is good enough.

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              01.04.2009 20:10
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              A Great Seafaring Adventure

              As The Crowe Flies
              ============

              In the times of the Napoleonic war, a the HMS Surprise captained by maritime living legend Captain "Lucky" Jack Aubrey is assigned to intercept a french ship, the Acheron. After their first encounter it's clear that the Acheron is vastly superior to the Surprise and Aubrey will have his work cut out to defeat the enemy as his soon to become nemesis is no push over.

              Conclusion
              =======

              I was keen to see this as soon as I heard about it, I am a fan of these kinds of historical films, I especially liked "The Bounty" and this sounded like a similar style. It is based on one of a series of Capt. Jack Aubrey books by author Patrick O'Brian who saldy dies in 2000 before this was made.

              Russell Crowe is a man of many talents. Since his breakthrough role in Gladiator he has been hot property in Hollywood despite his embarrassing outbursts and short fuse. He plays Aubrey with a lot of skill. He comes across as an almost obsessive man but one who cares deeply about his men, I think that was his goal and he has pulled it off.

              Paul Bettany has starred with Crowe before in "A Beautiful Mind", he's an actor I like and don't get to see enough these days it seems. His performance here seems effortless, and I mean that in a good way. His role as the compassionate doctor is very believable, and works off against Crowe's dedicated navy man very well.

              The supporting cast are all excellent and are not just afterthoughts, you learn their personalities and really go through it all with them throughout the entire film.

              Director Peter Weir is an old hand now, he's not a prolific director by any means but his works are regarded as quality. I especially like "The Truman Show" so was expecting great things. I was not disappointed. He is obviously a good motivator and uses a lot of attention to detail. The feel he has created in the film very good, it feels authentic.

              Almost all of the film is set at sea, with the exception of the landing at the Galapagos Islands. This is apparently the first time a movie has been filmed there. They are gorgeous as you'd expect and add a lot to the film. The ship itself is a main character in the film, and of course gives a sense of how cramped things were aboard these ships. It is filmed in a way that you feel that you are almost another crew member.

              The use of music is excellent, I especially like the use of the classical piece "Rhapsody on a Theme of Thomas Tallis" by Vaughn Williams that is used to excellent dramatic effect on one of the best scenes in the film. Crowe and Bettany play together on screen in the film on occasion, Crowe learned to play the violin for the part and did most of the playing seen on screen, impressive. The choice of pieces is excellent.

              Summing up, I love Master and Commander. It has in it a lot of things that I find interesting. Russell Crowe and Paul Bettany have excellent on screen chemistry, the plot is very good and has enough surprises to keep me interested even considering the considerable length. This is not Pirates of the Caribbean, if you want a lot of swashbuckling then look there instead, there is a small amount of swashbuckling here but it's kept more realistic.

              I was hoping that this would become a series of films as there are many books they could do and this one has been successful, but I think alas it's not to be. I don't think sequels are Peter Weir's style and it would be a shame to get somebody else to direct it.

              Recommend.

              Main Cast List
              =========

              Russell Crowe - Capt. Jack Aubrey
              Paul Bettany - Dr. Stephen Maturin
              James D'Arcy - 1st Lt. Tom Pullings
              Edward Woodall - 2nd Lt. William Mowett

              Directed By : Peter Weir
              Running Time : 138 Mins.
              Certificate : 12A

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                04.01.2009 21:35
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                This is very energetic film!

                Master and commander is an action pact film which follows a British naval ship on its travels around the American waters.
                Always on the look out for French or Spanish fleets, the captain of the ship played by Russell Crow are stuck in a mist when they are suddenly attacked by a supremely larger naval vessel, just managing to escape the British crew want to seek revenge and lay plans to chase the vessel.

                On an epic journey we see the British go to all cost to track down the ship, they face severe problems. Can they prevail?

                The attention to detail used in this film is exceptional; the director has really done a great job on making the movie look authentic and very realistic. The special effects used bring the film to life. The acting is superb and certainly makes you believe the film is real.

                The action scenes through out the movie are very realistic but not to gory! This means you can enjoy the film without cowering behind the sofa hiding from the blood! I believe that this is an excellent film that shows a true development of a crew and captain. Russell Crow is exceptional performing at his best we see how a captain struggles to do a duty for his country with such a high cost!

                The emotion is built through the use of music it evokes the audience to feel desperate for the British ship and its crew. You feel desperate for the crew as some die or become seriously ill.
                You are brought on an exceptional exciting journey through out the film.

                This is one to watch!

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                14.12.2008 11:15
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                A good film with action.

                The film follows a British navy ship and they will have to use all their power to defeat the enemy. Before the final battle, the captain takes them all on a trip to an exotic island.

                The cast does a great job and fit into their roles very well. The directing is great and the script is entertaining. The story is easy to understand so everyone will be able to watch. However, it is predictable and some scenes can go on for too long. The film also drags at the end, as it is quite long.

                The film can be watched a couple of times before it will get boring as the action and special effects are very good and look great.

                The picture and sound quality of the DVD is fantastic but the Blu-Ray is better. The DVD extras are good and worth a watch. They include some informative commentaries and behind the scenes footage. The single disc version doesn't contain all of these.

                In short, this film is packed with action and is very fun but the story is predictable and some scenes go on for too long as others are too short. It is worth a watch for every DVD/Action fan.

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                  15.11.2008 21:47
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                  Historical action fiction at its best

                  The film based on the books by Patrick O'Brian. it is based losely on two of the books out of the series.

                  As a fan of the books, I was looking forward to this film and Russel Crowe was a excellent choice to play Captain Aubrey.

                  The film is set in 1805 and introduces some of the characters from the books.

                  Captain Jack Aubrey has command of the HMS Suprise and his mission is to pursue a larger French privateer around the cape horne in the pacific ocean.

                  The film itself has good action scenes with a boarding action aboard the enemy ship and close ship combat it shows how life was onboard a ship in the 1800s .

                  The acting, story and special effects are very good and faithful to the books so is a good film for fans of the books but also good for action film fans.

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                    09.08.2008 22:15

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                    Watch for the actors rather than the plot.

                    'Master and Commander' is actually a mixture of two Patrick O'Brian books. 'Master and Commander' and 'Far Side of the World'. It tells the tale of Captain Jack Aubrey and the crew of HMS Suprise as they hunt down a mysterious ship that has been plaguing the seas...
                    Captain Jack Aubrey is played by Russell Crowe in what is possibly one of his less well-know roles (being better known for his roles in Gladiator and A Beautiful Mind). However, his performance in this film is no less accomplished. He is supported and possibly outshone by Paul Bettany (who also threaten to steal Crowe's thunder in 'A Beautiful Mind') who plays the ships surgeon. The rest of the cast is full of young British talent.
                    The direction and production of this film are top-notch and very enjoyable. The DVD also comes with a wide range of special features which are both enjoyable and informative.

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                    16.03.2007 17:21
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                    A fair stab at the film, but unlikely to spawn the expected sequels

                    (film only review)

                    What’s it about?
                    ----------------------
                    English sea captain Jack Aubrey is charged with hunting down a fierce French fighting ship, the Acheron, during the Napoleonic Wars.

                    Who’s in it?
                    ---------------
                    The bulk of the film concentrates on the relationship between two main characters: Captain Jack Aubrey, played by Russell Crowe and his friend Dr Stephen Maturin, the ship’s surgeon (played by Paul Bettany).

                    By far the biggest disappointment is Russell Crowe. This is the man who chewed up the scenery in Gladiator and proved he could “act” in The Insider. Here, he seems hopelessly mis-cast. For a start (although I wouldn’t say this to his face!), he looks overweight and a bit girly with blonde hair and a ponytail. His character is supposed to be a great leader of men, yet comes across as petulant, arrogant and uncaring. Crowe fails to give Aubrey any real depth – who is he? What drives him etc. – which is very dis-satisfying. Since Aubrey is (excuse the pun) the anchor for the film, it is a big weakness straight away that you don’t actually like him a great deal.

                    Better is the ever dependable Paul Bettany as Maturin. He plays the doctor with a quiet dignity and fierce determination. - an excellent role model for the younger members of the ship’s crew. In fact, Bettany is far more convincing as a leader than Crowe, and you can’t help but feel the film might have been stronger had it concentrated on him.

                    Is it any good?
                    ------------------
                    Based on the novels by Patrick O’Brian, Master and Commander accurately reconstructs life on a fighting ship during the Napoleonic Wars. This historical accuracy is by far the greatest asset of the film. Everything about it looks and feels real, from the harsh on-board conditions, to the constant peril and also the boredom of spending weeks at sea.

                    The film is also beautifully shot. Director Peter Weir (The Trueman Show) has always been an director and here does an excellent job of capturing the sight, sounds and smells of naval life. There are plenty of highly impressive shots of the Surprise sailing through the seas and you get a real feel for what it must have been like to spend so much time on a ship. Indeed, the Surprise becomes a character in its own right, and you almost wince each time it is damaged, in the same way you would if a friend was shot!

                    The trouble is the film goes almost too far down the route of historical accuracy. Voyages often involved months at sea with nothing to look at but the sea and sky, and large parts of the film consist of this too. Even “combat” could be long, drawn-out and boring with one ship having to chase down the fleeing enemy before battles proper could begin – and this is accurately portrayed too. Indeed, much of the film focuses on the Surprise searching for the Acheron – a bit like looking for a needle in a haystack! Historically accurate it may be. Exciting, it isn’t!

                    The combat proper itself when it arrives is initially spectacular. The sight of two huge ships side by side and cannon blazing away is impressive stuff and bodes well for exciting set-pieces. Sadly, this expectation proves short-lived. Once ships are boarded, the combat sequences dissolve into a mess of confusing action and chaotic images, as hundreds of sailors fight in the cramped space available on the ship’s deck. Worse still, many of the scenes are partially obscured because of all the smoke from the battle, meaning it’s sometimes difficult to work out what is going on. Some people die, others live, but until the smoke and dust has settled, you’re never quite sure exactly who is still standing. Again, I’m not doubting that this is historically very accurate. However, it doesn’t make for satisfying viewing.

                    This really is the problem with the whole film. It appears to be caught between wanting to give an accurate portrayal of life at sea in the 19th century, combined with an exciting action film. As a result, it tends to fall between the two and ends up being a film in which very little happens for long periods, followed by a burst of frenetic and confusing action, then back to the tedium of life on board a ship.

                    A further difficulty is that you feel like you are dropped into the film half-way through. As mentioned above, there is no real consideration of the motivations of Aubrey and this is true of most of the characters. We are simply presented with them and have to take them or leave them – there’s no backstory, no sense of aspiration. They are simply there, on the ship, doing their job. This makes it very difficult to identify with, or care for them.

                    There is a definite feeling that the director expects the viewer already to be familiar with Aubrey’s world through the books. For the casual viewer, this is frustrating. Similarly, the plot of the film is actually the conflation of two of the books (Master and Commander and the Far Side of the World) and it feels like it – at times, it feels a little uneven and forced – you can almost see where the two have been joined together.

                    Conclusion
                    --------------
                    Master and Commander: the far side of the world suffers from a real identity crisis. It is a brave attempt at constructing a historically accurate portrayal of life on a 19th century fighting ship. The trouble is, historically accurate and exciting blockbuster don’t always mix together well. Saddled with a bland lead character, a dull plot and confusing action sequences, Master and Commander fails to float my boat.

                    Basic Information
                    ----------------------
                    Master and Commander: the far side of the world
                    2003
                    Director: Peter Weir
                    Running time: approx. 138 minutes
                    Certificate: 12A

                    Trivia
                    -------
                    This is the first movie ever to film on the Galapagos Islands

                    © Copyright SWSt 2007

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                      15.05.2005 04:23
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                      It took me far longer than I wanted to get round to seeing Master & Commander: The Far Side of the World, but it was more than worth the wait. In fact, I have no hesitation in saying it’s the best film of 2003.

                      The initial plot is pretty simple – an English naval ship is attacked out of the blue by a French frigate. The French protagonist can out-man, out-gun, and out-sail the English vessel, but they manage to escape. The Captain, however, refuses to simply sail home and refit – the enemy must be caught and destroyed… somehow… and not all the crew think that going after such an enemy is a brilliant

                      The lead roles (the English ship’s Captain – “Lucky Jack” and Doctor) are played by the brilliant Russell Crowe and Paul Bettany, who worked together so fantastically in A Beautiful Mind, though the characters they play here are very different. Though the film has its fair share of action and there are several other memorable characters, the film is effectively a character study of these two men, and how their surroundings, duties, and the events on board the ship affect them and their relationship. Though they appear to be at different ends of the spectrum (the Captain is very much a military man and very pragmatic while the Doctor favours a more pacifist approach and just wants to study nature), they have many similarities – particularly stubbornness – and a sense of loyalty and honour. At times these qualities are on the brink of being consumed, and their shared love of music seems to be all that keeps them from being enemies. The way the characters are portrayed is brilliant – from the Captain’s anguish at some of the decisions he has to make and the consequences of these actions to the Doctor’s feeling out of place at mealtimes when naval banter and jokes are flying around the room. The characterisation is deeper than in any other film I’ve seen in the past couple of years – in fact, since I saw A Beautiful Mind.

                      There are many other characters of note, especially impressive were the distraught midshipman who was literally out of his depth, the young seaman who endured an amputation, another slightly older seaman who became a hero, and a crazy old guy who went around quoting obscure (or, occasionally, appropriate) biblical passages and basically thought everyone was cursed at one time or another.

                      I’ve deliberately kept the above description as vague as possible while still containing as many relevant details as possible, because such an amazing film deserves much more than a skimpy review. I’m sure that there are plenty of detractors who will tell you that this film is overlong and boring, of course – there’s a fair bit of action, but atmosphere, mood, character development, and humour (somewhat surprisingly for this sort of film – but it works!) are the really important aspects of this film. Peter Weir (Director, Producer, Screenplay) understands that having unbearable tension all the way through the film diminishes its effectiveness, and Master & Commander strikes the fine balance between tension, action, emotion, and thoughtfulness perfectly.

                      It’s refreshing to find a film of this type (or any type, come to think of it!) having very few obscenities in it (in fact I think there were only two in the whole film). The violence in the battle scenes is fairly graphic but not as gory as in, for instance, Gladiator or Cold Mountain, or possibly even Troy. A few operations are shown, but you don’t really get shown any gore. The certification it received was probably due as much to the fact that children just wouldn’t understand the undercurrents of what was going on than actual content – they would probably find it too boring because there’s a lot of talking and planning scenes.

                      The special effects are good and the feeling of being at sea is convincing (beware if you suffer from sea-sickness…), but what really deserves mention is the cinematography – it’s glorious. I haven’t been as impressed with any film’s cinematography as much as this for a very long time – much kudos to Russell Boyd! The musical score suits the film perfectly.

                      Crowe and Bettany are superb but none of the cast disappoint. The script may be too slow for some people’s taste, but to my mind it is perfect – thankfully resisting the temptation to give Crowe a pointless love interest, which could have ruined the movie. Overall, just about everything is as good as it could have been. Three thumbs up!

                      Cast

                      Cast List

                      Russell Crowe ...Capt. Jack Aubrey
                      Paul Bettany ...Dr. Stephen Maturin, Surgeon
                      James D'Arcy ...1st Lt. Tom Pullings
                      Edward Woodall ...2nd Lt. William Mowett
                      Chris Larkin ...Capt. Howard, Royal Marines
                      Max Pirkis ...Blakeney, Midshipman
                      Jack Randall ...Boyle, Midshipman
                      Max Benitz ...Calamy, Midshipman
                      Lee Ingleby ...Hollom, Midshipman
                      Richard Pates ...Williamson, Midshipman
                      Robert Pugh ...Mr. Allen, Master
                      Richard McCabe ...Mr. Higgins, Surgeon's Mate
                      Ian Mercer ...Mr. Hollar, Boatswain
                      Tony Dolan ...Mr. Lamb, Carpenter
                      David Threlfall ...Preserved Killick, Captain's Steward
                      Billy Boyd ...Barrett Bonden, Coxswain
                      Bryan Dick ...Joseph Nagle, Carpenter's Mate
                      Joseph Morgan ...William Warley, Cpt. of Mizzentop
                      George Innes ...Joe Plaice, Able Seaman
                      William Mannering ...Faster Doudle, Able Seaman
                      Patrick Gallagher ...Awkward Davies, Able Seaman
                      Alex Palmer ...Nehemiah Slade, Able Seaman
                      Mark Lewis Jones ...Mr. Hogg, Whaler
                      John DeSantis ...Padeen, Loblolly Boy
                      Ousmane Thiam ...Black Bill, Killick's Mate
                      Thierry Segall ...French Captain
                      Aidan Black ...Pvt. Trollope, Royal Marines

                      Crew

                      Directed by
                      Peter Weir

                      Writing credits
                      Patrick O'Brian (novels)
                      Peter Weir (screenplay) &
                      John Collee (screenplay)
                      Produced by
                      Todd Arnow .... co-producer
                      Alan B. Curtiss .... executive producer
                      Samuel Goldwyn Jr. .... producer
                      Meyer Gottlieb .... co-producer
                      Duncan Henderson .... producer
                      Peter Weir .... producer

                      Original Music by
                      Iva Davies
                      Christopher Gordon
                      Richard Tognetti

                      Non-Original Music by
                      Johann Sebastian Bach (from "Unaccompanied Cello Suite No.1 in G Major")
                      Luigi Boccherini (from "Boccherini La Musica Notturna delle Strade di Madrid. No. 6, Op. 30")
                      Arcangelo Corelli (from "Adagio from Concerto Grosso Op. 6, no. 8 in G Minor Christmas Concerto")
                      Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (from "Violin Concerto No.3")
                      Ralph Vaughan Williams (from "Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis")

                      Cinematography by
                      Russell Boyd

                      Film Editing by
                      Lee Smith

                      Casting by
                      Mary Selway
                      Fiona Weir

                      Production Design by
                      William Sandell

                      Art Direction by
                      Bruce Crone
                      Mark W. Mansbridge

                      Set Decoration by
                      Robert Gould

                      Costume Design by
                      Wendy Stites
                      Kacy Treadway (special costumes)


                      Rating

                      MPAA: Rated 12A (UK) PG-13 (USA) for intense battle sequences, related images, and brief language.

                      Length

                      138 min



                      Related Films

                      Russell Crowe and Paul Bettany teamed up previously in A Beautiful Mind. Much as a loved Master & Commander, I view it as inferior to A Beautiful Mind. This dramatisation of the true-life story of Nobel Prize-winning mathematician John Nash is, in my opinion, one of the finest films ever made. Jennifer Conolly also puts in a tremendous performance as Nash’s wife.

                      Russell Crowe also starred in Gladiator. The story of a wronged Roman General and the evil new Emperor (brilliantly played by Joaquin Phoenix) is utterly compelling and the tension almost unbearable at times.

                      Paul Bettany also appeared in A Knight’s Tale, which was a lot more fun than I was expecting it to be. With Rufus Sewell excellent as a baddie and Heath Ledger reasonably good as the hero, Bettany plays Chaucer, a wondering poet in search of inspiration, money, and clothes…


                      Thanks for reading,


                      CaptainD

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                        25.03.2005 10:35
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                        There is no DVD section for this so I am posting my DVD review of it here.

                        Peter Weir's catch-all adaptation of two of Patrick O'Brian's novels is less gung-ho than the "Gladiator At Sea" tags might suggest. The occassional explosions of cannon-flaring, cutlass-swishing violence are thrillingly executed, but if it's swashbuckle you're after, stick to "Pirates Of The Caribbean".

                        Set on a British frigate circa 1805, it's the story of two men- bluff, hardy seaman Captain Jack Aubrey (Russell Crowe) and progressive, enlightened ship surgeon Stephen Maturin (Paul Bettany)- and how their long-standing bond of friendship fares in extreme circumstances. Attacked and chased around the Cape Of Good Hope by a superior French vessel, Aubrey wants to risk all by taking the fight to the enemy, While Maturin argues for caution. Painstakingly crafted and powerfully acted, "Master And Commander" was unfortunate to sail into battle with Peter Jackson's "The Return Of The King" at the Oscars. Still, Peter Weir's Best Director BAFTA seems very astute and civilised.

                        If you ignore the vanilla edition disc and get the two-disc Special Edition, you will find that it is crammed with fresh and funny interviews, featurettes on every aspect of the production and one of the most riveting FX docs I have ever seen. Sadly, there is no commentary from director Weir, but he does provide an excellent, intimate little film on how he researched and approached the extensive material.

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                          30.09.2004 14:26
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                          Being a fan of this genre, I was looking forward to this, having missed it on the big screen. From the opening scene you know that you are in for something worthy from the special affects department. The film begins with a duel between the British ship Surprise, and a French privateer, apparently the cutting edge in naval technology. It neatly portrays a realistic vision of Napoleonic era sea warfare. Forget the Errol Flynn approach this is scary stuff, the fog of war, the devastation, the noise, you almost feel that you are stood on the deck. As a 12 certificate you may want to watch it first before your younger kids get hold of it, its not for the fainthearted. The scenes of below deck surgery are also quite vivid. Not so much gory, but fairly suggestive which as all horror film buffs know is the art of it, let the audiences mind fill in the blanks. The film wraps up in similar epic style also and with its eye to detail and its realistic feeling during the action, will quench the thirst of any history buff.

                          So what happens in between the epic war scenes. To be honest not much. All the standard bits are there, running through a storm, man over board, stirrings of mutiny against a supposed cursed member of the crew and the usual predictable sea going antics. Along with a limited plot, there are really only two characters that benefit from some form of personality development. Russel Crowe (Gladiator, A Beautiful Mind) plays Captain "Lucky Jack" Aubrey, which he carries off well enough, even if he seems a bit of a lenient and careing sort, the type Im sure would not rise to captaincy in the brutal navy of the Georgian world. More interesting is Paul Bethany, who played a brilliant Caucer in the Knights Tale, as the ships surgeon, naturalist, anarchist and confident of the captain. Again a character that you find hard to be tolerated on a ship of war, sort of a Charles Darwin and Thomas Paine all rolled into one.

                          We do get a bit of an insight into these two characters, there is an on going rivalry, one wanting to study the natural world, the other engaged in the business of hunting down French privateers, the former option seems an odd idea for 1805, when the whole of England was engaged in the task of overthrowing Napoleon. This is the year of Trafalger, the British troops are fighting in India and soon to be in America and on main land Europe, studying Iguanas in the Pacific was hardly an option. This plot devise however does allow the two characters to play off each other, and show their more caring side towards each other.

                          The supporting cast are standard, not really used in any great way, but its nice to see that at least one of the LOTR hobbits is in work, (ill let you spot him in the crowd).

                          That said, its still a good film, a good action romp with little concentration required, but I cant help thinking with a bit more thought it could have been a great film. It will appeal to the younger audience, and those who , unlike me, are not bothered to much about realistic historical flavour, maybe Im too critical on this point. If you are a fan of the likes of the Sharpe and Hornblower TV films, then you will like this, but for my money its Horatio Hornblower that wins the day. Rent it, watch it, enjoy it and then forget it.



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                            11.08.2004 02:37
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                            I'd always fancied myself as the nautical type. Yes indeed, I can see myself now climbing the rigging and yelling expletives across the deck to my fellow crew mates. However, giving myself rope burns, catching chills and being rocked back and forth 24 hours a day don't sound so appealing. No need to fear, though, because Peter Weir is here and he can give me that authentic sea-faring experience without the unpleasant features that would otherwise go hand to hand with it. I would love to say that the reason I went to see Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World was that I wanted to view Peter Weir's fantastic direction, to see the tensions between officers and ordinary seamen on board a frigate at war, or even to see all the big explosions the film was likely to serve up, but if I'm perfectly honest I can't claim that any of those above reasons was why I was so excited to see it. Nope, the truth is, the thought of Russell Crowe in breeches made me weak at the knees. So when it was first released I hobbled off to the cinema (it being quite difficult to walk normally with my knees buckling every time I thought of Rusty Boy, you understand) to see it, and I was so impressed that Master and Commander now takes pride of place in my DVD collection, and Mr. Crowe can only claim a little bit of the credit for that! Right from the second the film starts, it is clear that this movie is special. After a brief background to the story is revealed via text on the screen, we have some artistic views of the outside and then the inside of the ship. A bell tolls and the silhouettes of men visible against the canvas sail come into view, sliding down rigging, climibing ladders, all the while we can hear the sea lapping gently against the ship timbers in the background
                            . I'm hardly a film critic, but this scene did take my breath away and had me unable to tear myself away from the screen. The film is set in 1805, in the heat of the Napoleonic war. Russell Crowe play Captain Jack Aubrey of the HMS Suprise, and his ship is subject to a surprise attack by the French supported Acheron. Aubrey is a determined and proud man and becomes wrapped up in the Acheron, chasing it despite the fact that it is a much bigger ship. Paul Bettany plays Dr. Stephen Maturin, Aubrey's close friend as well as the ship physician, and voices the opinion (shared by some of the crew) that capturing the Acheron is not worth risking the ship and risking lives. Although this is the predominant line of the film, Peter Weir does not fail to explore other themes and ideas such as tensions on board a frigate, the pressures officers have to face, the difficulty of life on board a ship and the theme of friendship. Every aspect of this film is exquisite. It really does take you to sea. You can almost feel the wind in your hair, and the droplets of water hitting off your face. Despite the vast majority of the film being set at sea, it doesn't fail to keep you interested. The directing and music are amazing and the characterisation is fantastic (the characters and the story, although somewhat amended, of course being taken from the Patrick O' Brian "Master and Commander" novels). It is rated as a 12 certificate, and although this is generally fine, there is some scenes that might be a bit unpleasant for someone as young as 12 eg. there is a scene involving a young boy getting his arm amputated, that although no gory, might not be suitable for someone of a more tender disposition. Unfortunately, this film didn't do well on its first release or on
                            its subsequent release just before the Oscars. It didn't seem to get a great number of bums on seats, and only managed to obtain a single Oscar for cinematography which I feel was a great shame. Many of the people I?ve spoken to about it feel it is long winded and dull, so I suppose you have to have a love for nautical movies or historical epics. Of course, the name of Russell Crowe can?t be mentioned without peoples? thoughts running towards Gladiator, and I have to admit, most Gladiator fans will be disappointed. Master and Commander does have its action sequences, but most of the film focuses on the people on board the HMS Surprise and their relationships with each other and discussions over the Acheron. Also, Paul Bettany starred along side Russell Crowe in a Beautiful Mind, and I must admit I thought it a bit strange that they were paired up for a movie together again, but I didn?t feel it bothered me at all when watching the film. I viewed this film 3 times in the cinema (and that really is something as I rarely go to the cinema to view a film more than once), and bought the 2 disc special edition DVD as soon as it was released. Unfortunately, the special features aren?t anything particularly amazing. There is, of course, some deleted scenes. There are 6 in total and I enjoyed watching them. There are stills galleries, but I very rarely find these interesting so haven?t even flicked through them yet. There is an HBO special which you find on many DVDs, it seems, and which was quite interesting, but I found the other featurettes quite dull. There is a documentary entitled The Hundred Days which I loved, especially the part on the musical scenes in the film (Aubrey plays violin and Maturin plays cello). Another docum
                            entary entitled In the Wake of O? Brian is quite interesting, too, and is about the adaptation of the book to the screen, but all in all, I didn?t feel there was a great array of special features to choose from. A pretty standard selection, I?d say. I liked the presentation of the DVD, though. The two discs were inside one case, and the inside of the case had a still from the film on the right hand side and a list of the scenes on the left. The front and back cover of the DVD were nicely presented and it was all encased in a cardboard container which was a nice touch. I love this DVD, mainly because I feel the film is a one of a kind, but as I mentioned, other people don?t always seem to agree with me on that. I definitely think the film is worth the watching, though, even if it was just a case of hiring it from a video shop. Cast: Russell Crowe .... Capt. Jack Aubrey Paul Bettany .... Dr. Stephen Maturin, Surgeon James D'Arcy .... 1st Lt. Tom Pullings Edward Woodall .... 2nd Lt. William Mowett Chris Larkin .... Capt. Howard, Royal Marines Max Pirkis .... Blakeney, Midshipman Jack Randall .... Boyle, Midshipman Max Benitz .... Calamy, Midshipman Lee Ingleby .... Hollom, Midshipman Richard Pates .... Williamson, Midshipman Robert Pugh .... Mr. Allen, Master Richard McCabe .... Mr. Higgins, Surgeon's Mate Ian Mercer .... Mr. Hollar, Boatswain Tony Dolan .... Mr. Lamb, Carpenter David Threlfall .... Preserved Kil
                            lick, Captain's Steward Billy Boyd .... Barrett Bonden, Coxswain Bryan Dick .... Joseph Nagle, Carpenter's Mate Joseph Morgan .... William Warley, Cpt. of Mizzentop George Innes .... Joe Plaice, Able Seaman William Mannering .... Faster Doudle, Able Seaman Patrick Gallagher .... Awkward Davies, Able Seaman Alex Palmer .... Nehemiah Slade, Able Seaman Mark Lewis Jones .... Mr. Hogg, Whaler John DeSantis .... Padeen, Loblolly Boy Ousmane Thiam .... Black Bill, Killick's Mate Thierry Segall .... French Captain

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