Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World: Two-Disc Special Edition (2003)

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Released 19-Apr-2004

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Action Main Menu Audio & Animation
Web Links-Inside Look
Featurette-Behind The Scenes-The Hundred Days
Featurette-Behind The Scenes-In The Wake Of O'Brian
Featurette-Cinematic Phasmids
Featurette-Sound Design
Audio-Only Track-Interactive Sound Recording Demo
Featurette-HBO First Look
Deleted Scenes-6
Multiple Angles-Multi-Camera Shooting
Gallery-Stills (4 Galleries)
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 2003
Running Time 132:37
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (69:58)
Dual Disc Set
Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Peter Weir

Twentieth Century Fox
Starring Russell Crowe
Paul Bettany
James D'Arcy
Edward Woodall
Chris Larkin
Max Pirkis
Jack Randall
Max Benitz
Lee Ingleby
Richard Pates
Robert Pugh
Richard McCabe
Ian Mercer
Case ?
RPI $44.95 Music Iva Davies
Christopher Gordon
Richard Tognetti

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
English dts 5.1 (768Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.40:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English for the Hearing Impaired Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

   Peter Weir's film adaptation of Patrick O'Brian's famous series of historic novels makes for a rousing, compelling, and exciting movie. Apart from being a wonderful, escapist adventure, Master and Commander has also brilliantly brought a story of humanity, courage, and sacrifice to the screen.

    Patrick O'Brian wrote a number of detailed, historical novels in his Aubrey/Maturin series, including Master and Commander and The Far Side of the World. Master and Commander was the first in the Aubrey/Maturin series, and it introduces the characters of Captain Aubrey, R.N., and Stephen Maturin, the ship’s surgeon and intelligence agent. This book focuses on developing the characters and establishing their friendship. The Far Side of the World, on the other hand, is the tenth novel in the series, and a great adventure story. Both of the novels are set against the backdrop of the Napoleonic wars, and are renowned for their faultless attention to detail.

    Aussie Director, Peter Weir, has co-written this screen adaptation, and he has demonstrated the same attention to detail wherever possible.

    The film’s success for me, however, was that this is not merely a fun swashbuckling, sea-faring adventure, like Pirates of the Caribbean, but aims much higher. (I loved Pirates of the Caribbean by the way). Apart from being a wonderful, escapist adventure, Master and Commander has also brilliantly brought a story of humanity, courage, and sacrifice to the screen.

    The plot is simple, and outlined in the first few minutes of the film: Set during the Napoleonic Wars, British Captain, “Lucky Jack” Aubrey (Russell Crowe), has orders to take his ship, the HMS Surprise, to "intercept French Privateer Acheron en route to the Pacific...(and) sink, burn or take her a prize", before it rounds the tip of South America and wreaks havoc in the Pacific shipping lanes. As a recent, and much larger warship, the French Acheron is far superior to the aging, British Surprise.

    Interestingly, and I sincerely mean this as a complement, the movie’s story reminded me of a cross between Star Trek and Hornblower. Imagine an episode of Star Trek being acted out with the cast, costumes, and sets of Hornblower. For example, I'm sure that a number of people recognised that the relationship between Aubrey (Russell Crowe) and his scientific best friend, Dr. Stephen Maturin (Paul Bettany), was very similar to that between Kirk and Spock/McCoy: The passionate, inventive, war-like, and impulsive Captain, and his rational, logical, and thoughtful assistant and friend.

    I love epic movies, and I especially love those that provide a romantic and stirring image of the Age of Sail, balanced with the harsh realities of nineteenth century Naval life. The action sequences and sea battles are awesome, and the tension is gripping. The directing, cinematography, acting, art direction, costumes, SFX, editing, make up, and sound are all top notch, and not surprisingly, Master and Commander was nominated for 10 Oscars, including Best Picture.

Don't wish to see plot synopses in the future? Change your configuration.

Transfer Quality


    The transfer is wonderful, and if possible, this big-screen epic should be enjoyed with the use of a good projector.

    The transfer is presented in an aspect ratio of 2.40:1, 16x9 enhanced. This is very close to its screening aspect ratio of 2.35:1.

   The sharpness is excellent throughout, and one only has to look at any of the scenes with all the intricate ship's rigging in the foreground and/or background to appreciate this fact. The picture has a fairly high contrast, but the shadow detail is still good. For example, consider the detail in the sunset scene at 19:43. The black level is excellent.

    The whole film recalls the look and feel of 19th century sea-scapes, and traditional British naval art. As such, the colour palette is subtly muted, and often features the strong blue or grey hues of the ocean. The skin tones are accurate.

    Using DVD software, I looked at the largest file on the disc, which contained 23,391 frames (very roughly about 16 minutes) of the DVD. I found an average (and very impressive) bit rate 7.096 megabits per second. There are many scenes in this movie with fog and/or smoke, two areas where a poorly authored disc reveals its limitations, however there were no problems with MPEG artefacts on this DVD. There were also no problems with film-to-video artefacts.

    The source material is obviously a very recent print, and only a few very small film artefacts are scattered throughout, but they are hardly noticeable.

    There are only English subtitles present on the DVD, and they are accurate.

    This is an RSDL disc, with the layer change placed at 69:58. It is well-placed and not disruptive.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


    Both audio options provide a real showcase of the wonders of a discrete audio mix on DVD, and provide an incredibly  immersive viewing experience.

    There are two audio options on this DVD: English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s) and English dts 5.1 (768Kb/s). Both options are excellent in their sound quality, and in their ability to place the viewer in the middle of the action at all times. While there is not a great deal to separate the two options, I found that I preferred the dts option for a much stronger presence in the bass.

    About 75% of this film uses looped audio for dialogue, yet despite the extensive use of ADR, the dialogue quality and audio sync are excellent on both audio tracks. Obviously during the thick of battle, a lot of it is unclear and layered, as intended.

    The musical score is provided by a team of composers, including Iva Davies (yes, the Iva Davies of Icehouse), Christopher Gordon, and Richard Tognetti. There is also the clever use of source music, which is often Bach or Mozart. The use of music in this film is very well done, and there are quite a few scenes without dialogue, where the music perfectly expresses the character's thoughts and feelings.

    This is an extremely aggressive surround sound mix for both the Dolby Digital 5.1 and dts formats. The amazing surround presence and activity creates a very immersive viewing experience. The beauty of this type of mix is that it's not just the obvious scenes, like the battle scenes, that provide rear directional effects. For example, consider the wind at 19:43. One can almost feel the cold sea air biting at the back of one's neck. While both formats are described as being "5.1" only, I believe that they could be ES and EX encoded respectively.

   The deep and pounding LFE audio is simply awesome, and absolutely terrifying at times. I'm sure my subwoofer was pushed to new depths throughout. This disc is a real house-rumbler!

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


    The second disc is loaded with plenty of genuine extras.


    Animated menus with Dolby Digital 2.0 audio.

Disc One

Inside Look

    This link merely directs the viewer to a web-site,

Disc Two

Featurette - The Hundred Days

    Running for about 68 minutes, and presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1, 16x9 enhanced, with Dolby Digital stereo audio, this featurette roughly covers the 100+ days of principal photography. Divided into chapters, the featurette includes comments by a number of cast and crew members, and a lot of behind-the-scenes footage. It attempts to cover everything from Crowe's daily violin lessons to the stunt choreography.

Featurette - In The Wake Of O'Brian

    Running for about 19 minutes, and presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1, 16x9 enhanced, with Dolby Digital stereo surround audio; this featurette is hosted by Weir. Weir discusses the process of reading O'Brian's 20 novels and extracting relevant passages for inspiration. Weir also discusses his research before committing to co-writing the script.

Featurette - Cinematic Phasmids

    Presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1, 16x9 enhanced, with Dolby Digital stereo audio, this featurette runs for about 30 minutes, and looks at the use of CGI and models to create the realistic images of two warships at sea.

Featurette - Sound Design

    Presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1, 16x9 enhanced, with Dolby Digital stereo audio, this featurette is divided into two sections: The first runs for about 18 minutes, and is entitled On Sound Design. This discusses the extensive use of ADR in the movie, as well as the recording of the sound effects. The second part is an Interactive Sound Recording Demonstration, and using the remote, the viewer can hear the varying sounds from the various microphone placements around a cannon being fired.

Featurette - HBO First Look

    Running for about 25 minutes, and presented in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1 with Dolby Digital stereo audio, this featurette contains the usual marketing, back-slapping fluff with some behind-the-scenes footage. A lot of this material appears in The Hundred Days.

Deleted Scenes

    Presented in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1, with Dolby Digital stereo audio, there are six deleted scenes which can be viewed separately, or played together. Combined they run for just under 24 minutes. A lot of the scenes are the quiet and simple, life-on-board-a-nineteenth-century-warship moments that help develop a few of the supporting characters a little more.

Featurette - Multi-Camera Shooting

    Multiple cameras were used in the principal photography, and this featurette allows viewers to watch various scenes with multiple camera angles. Using the remote, viewers can change the camera angle, or view a composite.

Still Galleries

    There are four galleries: The first two contain stills of conceptual art by two different artists; the third includes naval art that inspired the look of the film; and the fourth includes technical drawings.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    Master and Commander will be released in a one and two-disc DVD edition in both R1 and R4. R1 consumers can also purchase "full screen" (pan & scan) versions. The comparison below is for the two-disc widescreen edition (there will be a separate review for the one-disc edition).

    The Region 4 DVD misses out on:

    The Region 1 DVD misses out on:

    I would call it pretty even. Although the R1 has a few more trailers included, personally I would still prefer our R4 version for the superior PAL transfer. In using a projector, and watching a very large projected image, I really do see the difference that PAL's extra resolution provides.


    Master and Commander is a very well-made film that displays a great attention to detail. I found the story absorbing, and the quality of the transfer and discrete audio make this DVD a real home-theatre gem.

    The video quality is excellent.

    The audio quality is also excellent, and the amazing surround presence and activity creates a very immersive viewing experience.

    The extras are plentiful, genuine, and added to my enjoyment and appreciation of the film.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Brandon Robert Vogt (warning: bio hazard)
Monday, March 29, 2004
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV-535, using S-Video output
DisplayGrundig Elegance 82-2101 (82cm, 16x9). Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationSony STR DE-545
SpeakersSony SS-V315 x5; Sony SA-WMS315 subwoofer

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Comments (Add)
EX/ES? Pros/cons... -
It's like a really cool episode of Hornblower! - Zinzan (This is my.... bio) REPLY POSTED
whats the packaging? - dazbug REPLY POSTED
Star Trek was based on Hornblower. -
looped audio for dialogue? -
Looped Audio - BruceM (read my bio) REPLY POSTED
What utter crap! -
Great movie -
Perfect - Brent R (bio-zet is especially formulated for front loading machines)
Great Transfer ??????? -
Packaging/Extras/General Thoughts -
Great Sound and Great Movie - Pendergast (Why not take a look at my bio, you might think it stinks.)