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Master and Commander - Preview

Preview by: Jack Foley

IT'S been a while, but Russell Crowe finally makes a welcome return to the Big Screen later this year, with the epic Master & Commander: The Far Side of the World.

And, from looking at the challenges of filming the movie, it is easy to see why his return to the screen has taken so long - he last appeared in the Oscar-winning A Beautiful Mind.

For Master & Commander, he unites with director, Peter Weir, for an adaptation of Patrick O'Brian's widely beloved 20-volume cycle of seafaring sagas, set during the Napoleonic Wars.

The movie is rumoured to have cost in the region of $120 million and looks set to head the current crop of epics being made by the major studios, which include Brat Pitt's Troy, and Leonardo DiCaprio's Alexander The Great.

Master and Commander, which distributors, Twentieth Century Fox may seek to develop into a franchise, is said to draw its central plot from the 10th book in the O'Brian cycle, The Far Side of the World, even though some of the characters and incidents will be borrowed from other installments.

As well as providing the necessary swashbuckle, it will also focus on the relationship between Crowe's captain, 'Lucky' Jack Aubrey, and the ship's doctor and secret agent Stephen Maturin (played by Paul Bettany, who also appeared alongside Crowe in A Beautiful Mind).


The novel follows Aubrey's chase of an American warship around Cape Horn, during the War of 1812, but Weir's version will take place in 1806, and will transform the enemy into a French super-frigate, the Acheron.

According to certain web reports, the story begins with an attack on the Surprise, by the Acheron, from which Aubrey and crew barely escape; and then takes in Aubrey's obsessive chase around a typhoon-tossed Cape Horn and up to the Galapagos Islands.

Shooting began on June 17 last year, and took in 18 weeks in Mexico and one more in the Galapagos.

The HMS Rose, a British frigate not unlike the fictional Surprise, was a floating museum in Bridgeport, Conn., when the filmmakers bought it and had it sailed through the Panama Canal to Baja.

Meanwhile, the full-scale replica of the Rose was built in the same oceanside tank where Titanic was filmed in Rosarito.

The producers believe that the time is right to deliver audiences another sea-based swashbuckler, and cite the success of Errol Flynn's Captain Blood, and Marlon Brando's Mutiny on the Bounty as influences.

They will also have been buoyed considerably by the success of Disney's Summer blockbuster, Pirates of the Caribbean, which has proved, quite conclusively, that such movies are not destined to sink without trace from the outset.

With Crowe still hot after his Oscar success, and Bettany building on an established screen partnership with the Australian actor, filmgoers have every reason to feel excited, particularly as the effects team is the same one behind the Lord of the Rings trilogy.

The movie is scheduled for a November 14 release in the US, and November 28 in the UK. IndieLondon will, of course, be bringing you the US reaction when it comes in...

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