Usually, when I go to the movies nowadays, I have a sinking feeling once the opening credits start. I say a little prayer that the film won't 'suck too bad.' Well, I had the customary sinking at the beginning of "Master and Commander" last night. It did not last long, however.
I cannot recommend this film enough.
I like balance. You can have a great cinematographer at the camera, but if the dialogue is weak, I will probably be very unhappy with it. The soundtrack may be divine, but if visuals are weak, I will hate the movie, most likely. Good concept? If not executed properly, I will not appreciate it.
"Master and Commander" got prettymuch everything right. Perfect soundtrack, amazing balance between action and repose, between public image and intimacy. Some of my favorite scenes were the musical ones. During the off times where the Captain and the ship's physician made music together, you could see the history between them. A bond forged perhaps since boyhood was depicted using but the subtle ways that they would joke with each other while playing and in their instinctive knowledge of what the other was in the mood for musically. I was so charmed by this conveyence of narrative using (sorry) 'non mediatized communication.' I am so unaccustomed to seeing it nowadays.
On the other end of the spectrum, the battle scenes were awesome. This is not your typical, Errol Flynn-like swashbuckling exchange of witty repartee. War is Hell. I saw in the battle scenes some of the most apt representations of this. The first few scenes in the film will blow your mind away, much as the cannons blew the quiet, the calm away on the Surprise.
A lot of research and work went into bringing us a reality so strong that it would be easy to suspend disbelief. Characters were strong and psychology was looked into. But this wasn't dwelt upon too deeply. Only enough to further the story. Actors trained intensively in order to appear to be fairly skilled at what they were doing, so that when they needed to look like they were inept, they did. Computer effects were minimal enough so as not to distract from the real action taking place on a real ship in real water.
About the last recent film that I felt this exhilarated by was "The Horseman on the Roof" based on the novel by one of my favorite storytellers: Jean Giono. I saw that film several times and reread my stock of Giono novels/stories. I will do the same with this film, and most likely will start reading the novels that inspired it.
Please go see this. It has given me faith that excellent movies *can* still be made.