Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World (PG-13) Peter Weir. This is Peter Weir's finest film since the brilliant The Mosquito Coast, with which it shares themes of wounded nationalism, prey becoming predator and the leader who may be going mad. Just as he summoned Harrison Ford's finest work in 1986, Weir here works wonders with Russell Crowe, who plays a nineteenth-century British captain battling a superior French vessel off the coast of South America. The late Patrick O'Brian's "Aubrey/Maturin" novels receive a lavish, thrilling adaptation, and Paul Bettany as the ship's studious doctor deserves top billing with Crowe, whose swaggering effort is barred from greatness by a complete lack of vulnerability. Nonetheless, it's a classic. Here amid the salt spray, tropical sweat and puddles of blood, relatable characters skirt the shoals of melodrama to drive headlong into unpredictable squalls and maddening torpor. This movie is alive. Weir has unleashed a rollicking adventure film dedicated not to escapism but to restoring some sense of humanity to its digitally delirious audience. Opens Friday, November 14, at multiple locations. (Gregory Weinkauf)
Subscribe now to get the latest news delivered right to your inbox.