Peter Weir directs Russell Crowe, Paul Bettany and Max Pirkis in this rousing sea adventure, where Captain “Lucky Jack” Aubrey enters a cat-and-mouse pursuit with a technically superior French war vessel.
Perhaps the most immersive blockbuster experience of this century already feels like a film from another age. I remember seeing it twice at the cinema on release and both times not completely able to fully unpack the plot and characters as I was so swept up into the expertly realised world we are transported into. Not one moment, prop or extra does not ring true. We are on a Napoleonic man-of-war, of one mind with our crew’s missions and fears throughout. This is completely Peter Weir’s achievement – madness he has only made one movie since. The bonus is Russell’s best performance… surprisingly humane and unbombastic when it could have easily been a rerun of Maximus with a ponytail. He shines just as much in his one to one encounters with individuals in the crew as he does the rollicking period action. None more so than his musical sparring matches with Bettany’s likeable outsider Doctor. Just wonderful. “The Surprise is not old; no one would call her old. She has a bluff bow, lovely lines. She’s a fine seabird: weatherly, stiff and fast… very fast, if she’s well handled. No, she’s not old; she’s in her prime.”
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