Being a fan of the Patrick O'Brian Aubrey/Maturin novels, I approached this film with a little caution, as anybody familiar with the books will tell you that the film title is an amalgamation of two seperate books from the series. I am pleased to say that my fears were, for the most part, misplaced. The casting of the two main parts is inspired, both bringing to life there respective characters with a warmth and depth that becomes apparent in the books, but I doubted could be brought to the big screen, with the obvious time constraints allowing only a finite amount of time for "character building".
The attention to detail, the sound and sweeping cinematography are truly breathtaking, whilst the inclusion of several smaller plot lines from various books in the series make even the "quite" times in the film alternatly gripping and, at times, very moving. The exciting scenes of sudden battle, (with the excellent sound effects), rounding cape horn, and long sea chases are tempered by scenes of Nelsonian period surgery, loss of shipmates and the psychological stresses that months at sea could produce.
There are a couple of things that do detract a little (for me). Why was it necessary to amalgamate two fine books into the one movie, when any of the books in the series, given this kind of treatment, would make for a superb film in its own right, and why do the Americans now feel that they have to re-write historical FICTION, as well as FACT. The enemy ship being hunted in the novel The Far Side of The World is an AMERICAN frigate, the NORFOLK, as the action occurs during the war of 1812.
This aside, Master and Commander is an excellent movie, just sit back and allow yourself to be taken back in time!