When you are out on a ship, in the middle of the sea, quitting is not an option. No one seems to know this better than Captain Aubrey of the HMS Surprise. An english sailor, he has orders to find and capture a french vessel- The Acheron. Just one small problem. The Acheron is bigger, faster, and more agile than the Captain’s ship ever could be.
That doesn’t daunt the Captain though, he has his orders, and plans to see them through- even at the cost of his men, his ship, and his life. It is a game of cat and mouse, except in this game, one will die.
Things I Liked
Captain Aubrey is a man who is an excellent leader. Motivated by duty to his country, and moral for his men. He pursues wholeheartedly- without stop, the assignment given to him by the british government. He is a man unwavering in his beliefs, yet also very open minded to advice and consul. He is witty, bright, and funny at times, but also knows exactly when it is time to be serious. The sailors love him as a leader, mainly because he is such a fine role model to follow.
As in any Military film, themes of sacrifice, bravery, and courage are shown throughout the film. The men are truly a group, unified towards one goal. They fight together, play together, mourn together, and pray together. The bond between sailors is a cool thing to see for sure.
In addition to the great roles and characters, it was fascinating to see the strategies and methods of sailing back in the Napoleonic Era. While I am confident it was not perfectly accurate, Thinking of strategy on a ship with sails level was something unique and a good puzzle to work on throughout the film.
Things I Didn’t Like
When Aubrey’s ship “the surprise” is attacked, we are introduced to the mayhem and catastrophic affects of naval battles. And we are not sheltered from any of it. The Cannon balls rip through the ships hull like it was just tissue paper. The unfortunate soldiers to be in the area are killed by the ball, or the splinters from the explosion of impact. In the lower decks, dead bodies and blood are shown everywhere in the heat of the battle.
Likewise above decks, men are killed in various brutal means. Gun shot at point blank range, swords slicing and gutting soldiers, and clubbing to death with anything else the men can find. Again, dead bodies with open wounds litter the decks during and after the battle. Blood covers the ship floor, and many people are stained head to toe with it.
Unfortunately, that is not the worst of it. Down in the lower decks, a hospital is made to house the injured. Here we are shown a boy who had to have his arm amputated, and a mans who has to have skull surgery to save his life. The camera is unapologetic in showing the goriness of the hospital room. I was just thankful I could not smell the place shown as well.
Other violence includes a man getting lashings for insubordination, a man is lost as sea after falling over board, and another commits suicide.
God’s name is in vain many times- at least a dozen. They also drop an F-Bomb, and use the british profanity “Bloody” quite often.
This ship, is England. So it’s every hand to his rope or gun, quick’s the word and sharp’s the action. After all… surprise is on our side. ~Captain Aubrey~
“Master and Commander” was adapted from an older book called “The Far Side of the World”. When making the movie, the creators mentioned how they did stray from the content of the book quite a bit, yet strove to maintain its themes. I would say, they did a pretty good job.
Just because a job is done well though, doesn’t mean the job should have been done. This film contains a gut wrenching amount of blood and even gore. It is enough to make anyone uncomfortable, but most flat out sick. This is where the creators strayed quite a bit from the original content. Amplifying it for today’s Hollywood standards.
Case in point, they also recreated some pretty impressive themes. Captain Aubrey is not only incredibly wise, dutiful, and perseverant. He is also quite witty, funny, and leads his men well. He is made as an example to be followed, and rightly so, because is a man worth leading. His decisions and actions always are made with his duty, and crew in mind.
At the end of the film though, I wasn’t marveling about the excellent leadership, the power of perseverance, or the fruit of hard labor. Rather, I was trying to wash my mind of the gruesome and gory details from war and surgery the film so rawly portrayed. The messages are there, but you’ll have to quite a bit of sanitizing to get to them.