Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World (Blu-ray) (2003)

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Released 4-Mar-2008

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Action Deleted Scenes-x 6
Trivia
Theatrical Trailer-x 3
Web Links
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 2003
Running Time 138:20
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Programme
Region Coding 4 Directed By Peter Weir
Studio
Distributor

Twentieth Century Fox
Starring Russell Crowe
Paul Bettany
James D'Arcy
Edward Woodall
Chris Larkin
Max Pirkis
Jack Randall
Max Benitz
Case ?
RPI $39.95 Music Iva Davies
Christopher Gordon
Richard Tognetti


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English DTS HD Master Audio 5.1
Spanish dts 5.1 (768Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.40:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 1080p
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English 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 gripping film adaptation of Patrick O'Brian's famous series of historic novels made for a rousing, compelling, and exciting movie. Apart from being a wonderful, escapist adventure, Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World (2003) also brilliantly brought a story of humanity, courage, and sacrifice to the screen. Released as an excellent two-disc, DVD edition just over four years ago, Master and Commander has now arrived on our shores in high definition, on Blu-ray.

    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. First published in 1970, Master and Commander was the first novel 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 initial novel 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.

    Growing up in Sydney, Australia, Peter Weir became part of the film movement dubbed the "Australian New Wave" by the US media in the early 1980s. Weir first found international critical acclaim with his haunting film, Picnic At Hanging Rock (1975). Weir followed this success with a string of critical and commercially successful films, such as Gallipoli (1981), The Year of Living Dangerously (1982), Witness (1985), Dead Poets Society (1989), Green Card (1990), The Truman Show (1998), and Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World (2003). Weir now has the distinction of being one of the most Oscar nominated film directors (four times), to never win an Oscar for directing.

    Weir also has a strong background in writing, and co-wrote the scripts for Gallipoli, The Year of Living Dangerously, and Green Card,
for which he was also nominated for an Oscar. Weir co-wrote the Master and Commander screen adaptation, and he has demonstrated an attention to detail, similar to O'Brian's, wherever possible. There are some significant changes, however, the most obvious being that the the American frigate USS Norfolk featured in the novel, has now become the American-built, French privateer, Acheron.

    The film’s success for me, however, was that this is not merely a fun swashbuckling, sea-faring adventure, like the original Pirates of the Caribbean, but aims much higher. (I love Pirates of the Caribbean by the way). Apart from being a wonderful, escapist adventure, with Master and Commander, Peter Weir 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 in 1805, 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 more 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, verbally sparing with 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 simply 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 and Best Director.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    The original DVD's transfer was great, but the BD's transfer is noticeably sharper and far more detailed. This high definition disc is now the very best presentation of this film to date, and the ultimate way to enjoy Master and Commander at home.

    The transfer is presented in high definition, having been authored in 1920 x 1080p. It has been encoded using AVC MPEG-4 compression, and is presented in a widescreen aspect ratio of 2.40:1, in a native 16x9 frame. This is very close to its theatrical screening aspect ratio of 2.35:1.

    Despite the presence of film grain, the sharpness is excellent throughout, and as with the DVD, 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. But the BD's transfer manages to be even sharper than the previous DVD release. For example, consider the vastly improved delineation in the fine writing in the Captain's logbook at 18:14. The picture has a fairly high contrast, but the shadow detail is still good. The black level is excellent.

    Russell Boyd won an Oscar for his cinematography, and the whole film recallss the look and feel of 19th century seascapes, 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.

    The DVD had an impressive average bit rate of 7 Mbps, but the BD's transfer usually ranges between 25-30 Mbps. 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, such as pixelization. There are also no problems with Film-To-Video Artefacts, such as aliasing or telecine wobble. A few small film artefacts, for example, tiny black or white flecks, appear infrequently throughout, but these were never distracting, and indeed, they were hard to spot.

    Fourteen subtitle streams are included. The English ones are accurate.

    The feature and extras are presented on a single BD-50 (50Gb) Blu-ray disc. The feature is divided into 36 chapters.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    The sound on Master and Commander provides a great home theatre experience, and again there is a noticeable improvement over the DVD.

     Master and Commander was originally released on DVD with the choice of two audio tracks: English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s) and English dts 5.1 (768Kb/s). Both options were excellent in their sound quality, and in their ability to place the viewer in the middle of the action at all times. The BD improves matters again, by offering English dts-HD Lossless Master Audio for the feature. dts-HDMA can potentially support an unlimited number of surround sound channels, and down mix to 5.1 if required. As I mentioned in a previous review, this is 'future-proofing' as currently there are no Blu-ray or HD-DVD players that are able to decode the dts-HD Master Audio, but all Blu-ray and HD-DVD players can currently decode the dts-HD "core" audio at 1.5 Mbps. There is also a Spanish dubbed audio for the feature, presented in dts, and encoded at 768 Kb/s.

    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.

    As with the DVD, this is an extremely aggressive surround sound mix, which 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, ambient sounds, such as the wind, or the ship's bells, or sea birds flying overhead can all be subtly heard. As with the DVD, one can almost feel the cold sea air biting at the back of one's neck. The deep and pounding LFE audio is simply awesome, and absolutely terrifying at times.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

    This BD comes loaded with some new interactive extras, but in a very annoying trend, the Master and Commander BD has none of the wonderful and genuine featurettes that were on the two-disc DVD.

Floating Pop-Up Menu

    As with other BDs, the menu can be accessed while the film is playing.

Deleted Scenes

    There are six deleted scenes which can be viewed separately, or played together. Unlike the DVD which presented these in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1, here they are presented in a widescreen aspect ratio of 2.40:1, in a native 16x9 frame. Combined they run for just over 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. The deleted scenes are entitled:

Historical and Geographical Trivia Track

    This extra places sheets of text printed on 'parchment' onscreen during the film. As the title suggests, it provides historical and geographical information throughout the film.

Search Content

    A number of topics are provided in alphabetical order, allowing the viewer to select a subject of interest, and then the associated part of the film.

Personal Scene Selections

    This extra allows the viewer to select their favourite scenes and play them in sequence.

Pop-Up Map

    This option superimposes a map onscreen, which allows the viewer to track the ships' location throughout the film.

Trailers (7:25)

Websites

    This merely directs the viewer to various Fox websites

R4 vs R1

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

    Our Master and Commander BD is identical in content to the US BD.

Summary

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

    The video quality is excellent.

    The audio quality is also excellent.

    Sadly, all of the genuine and fascinating featurettes from the two-disc DVD are missing.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Brandon Robert Vogt (warning: bio hazard)
Wednesday, March 19, 2008
Review Equipment
DVDSony Playstation 3 (HDMI 1.3) with Upscaling, using HDMI output
DisplayPanasonic High Definition 50' Plasma (127 cm). Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationSamsung Pure Digital 6.1 AV Receiver (HDMI 1.3)
SpeakersSamsung

Other Reviews NONE
Comments (Add)
Down conversion of dts-HD Master Audio - Ray Ruggaurs REPLY POSTED
RE:Down conversion of dts-HD Master Audio - - Tom (read my bio)
RE:Down conversion of dts-HD Master Audio - phantomps2
RE:Down conversion of dts-HD Master Audio - Tom (read my bio)
W.T.F is up with the picture quality. -
Re: WTF is up with the picture quality? -
Re picture quality -
Picture quality. I'm not the only who thinks this either. -