Peter Weir's catch-all adaptation of two of Patrick O'Brian's novels is less gung-ho than the "Gladiator At Sea" tags might suggest. The occasional explosions of cannon-flaring, cutlass-swishing violence are thrillingly executed, but if it's swashbuckle you're after, stick to Pirates Of The Caribbean.
Set on a British frigate circa 1805, it's the story of two men - bluff, hardy seaman Captain Jack Aubrey (Russell Crowe) and progressive, enlightened ship surgeon Stephen Maturin (Paul Bettany), - and how their long-standing bond of friendship fares in extreme circumstances. Attacked and chased around the Cape Of Good Hope by a superior French vessel, Aubrey wants to risk all by taking the fight to the enemy, while Maturin argues for caution. Painstakingly crafted and powerfully acted, Master was unfortunate to sail into battle with Peter Jackson's The Return Of The King at the Oscars. Still, Peter Weir's Best Director BAFTA seems very astute and civilised.