MASTER AND COMMANDER: THE FAR SIDE OF THE WORLD
(12A) 138min O...
In 30 years Australian director Peter Weir has gone from low budget guerrilla filmmaking (1974’s extremely culty horror The Cars That Ate Paris) to this behemoth, a seafaring yarn of considerable scale. Weir is, however, one of the few directors of his generation who has managed to keep a singular voice running throughout his work. Unlike, say, de Palma and Coppola, the distance he has trekked from his younger works has strengthened his gift rather than broken his nerve.
But you do have to wonder about the sanity of a man who, having had a huge international hit (with The Truman Show in 1998), disappears off the radar for five years to make a good old fashioned tale of high seas warfare. Yet Weir has always been one syllable away from being a special case and with Master and Commander, yet again (as he has done intermittently before with The Last Wave and Fearless) he has surprised us all by spitting out a near perfect genre bender.
It is April 1805 and the British Frigate HMS Surprise is chopping through the waters just off the coast of Brazil. The area is a combat zone in the Napoleonic wars, and fairly soon Captain ‘Lucky’ Jack Aubrey (Russell Crowe) and his solid crew realise they are the constant prey of the powerful, impenetrable French warship, the Acheron. Aubrey quickly knows that the Surpise’s firepower will never match that of the Acheron so he sets out to devise a strategy for destruction of the Froggy reaper. Then he takes some very good advice from his best friend Dr Stephen Maturin (Paul Bettany), the ship’s surgeon and pre- Darwinian wildlife obsessive.
Adapted from one of Patrick O’Brian’s best- selling Aubrey/Maturin novels by Weir and John Collee (Paper Mask), many of the details have been shunted around from the original books (which may cause fans of them some distress). But at the end of the day Weir has grabbed these tales by the hammock sack and given them a damn good de-weevilling. Geometrically opposed to the current vogue for campness in historical yarns, this film is played as straight as a die and in Crowe and Bettany, Weir has found himself two
iconic performers who could thrust a big screen franchise on to Doomsday.
Most importantly Weir is clever enough to know that spectacle is fine as far as it goes, but that it is tight characterisation and a causal humanity in war epics that propels them to greatness. This is a film that staunchly stands beside the true greats of its genre: Ustinov’s Billy Budd, Peterson’s Das Boot and Robert Wise’s Run Silent Run Deep. (Paul Dale)
I General release from Fri 28 Nov.
VIOLFNT THRILLER THE MAN OF THE YEAR
(15) 116 min .0
This is the debut feature of Bra/ilian director Jose Henrique Fonseca. himself a former assistant to Walter Salles iCentra/ Stationi. Man of the Year is an ovenvrought. cluttered tale of how an ordinary man becomes a contract killer in the Rio de Janeiro underworld.
Hawng shot dead a much despised local criminal. unemployed salesman Maiquel llvlurilo Benicioi becomes the toast of his neighbourhood. Later he accepts the offer of free treatn‘ent fron‘ his dentist in exchange for carrying out a hit on a rapist. lvlaiquel hasn't yet abandoned his hopes of a ‘normal' life of work. marriage and kids.
Explicitly concerned With the
34 THE LIST 7/ Non it [)(x; 7003
A familiar trajectory of crime
workings of fate and destiny. and by portraying such a lawless and hypocritical society where seemingly respectable citizens such as Carvalho and his cronies pay for assassms to carry out law and Order duties. Fonseca suggests that environment as well as luck dictates Maiquel's life (:hOices.
Hyperreal in its frenetic caiiierawork and expreSSionistic colour palette. the film quickly overreaches itself. and pursues the familiar trajectory of countless crime pictures: cocaine as the pick-me-up of choice. a mounting body count. and an increasingly paranOid and isolated protagonist. The often superfluous voice over indicates the drama's Wider failings: less would surely have been more. (Tom Dawson)
I Fi/nihouse. Edinburgh from Tue 2 Nov to Thu 4 Dec
CRIME COMEDY AMERICAN COUSINS (15) 93min .0.
Tension, of the frictional kind. is an essential ingredient to fine comedy drama. And what better than a clash of cultures to achieve this. It's been done many times before. of c0urse. in Letter to Bre/hnev and Shirley Valentine
For that reason. American Cousins may have you thinking of Local Here. It shares a quaint distrust of the outsider. though the ‘invaded' Scots here aren't quite so nice-but-dim. Indeed. Roberto (Gerald Lepkowskii is eventually Willing to take matters into his own hands when his cafe business comes under threat from local hoods. And the menacing mobsters from eastern Europe and the north of England are also dealt with when they attempt to extinguish the New Jersey crooks Settimo (Dan Hedayal and Gino (Danny Nucci). who have come to lie low in Glasgow with their ice cream—scooping and cod—battering relatives.
And here is where the clashes come. as Gino's Italiano machismo fails to impress Roberto while he himself baffles his guests With his Scottish iyou could say that the chips he has aren't just in the deep fat fryer). Shirley Henderson. meanwhile. plays yet another male-bullshit detector in the role of Alice. Whose inherent love for Roberto is temporarily blinded by Gino's stallion tendencies: call it Gregory's Goornah if you Wish.
But all the cast's best efforts are barely repaid when Vincent Pastore strolls in at the climax to steal the movie. Not exactly the best Scottish film ever but. nonetheless. a charmer that is never offensive.
(Brian Donaldson) I Selected release from Fri 28 Nov. See lntervrew. page 33.
Get married to the McMob