This elephantine monster of a film clumsily lurches its way from scene to disjointed scene telling the story of 197 souls and not a single person. There was little to no character development, there was no room for the audience to experience any empathy for any of the actors since there was no background information provided. I mean, why the heck is Captain "Lucky" Jack Aubrey (Russell Crowe) so lucky anyway? It seems to me his situation is particularly unlucky – but then the film offered only a narrow synchronic view as opposed to an intelligent diachronic explanation.
The main plot (and there is no more than a basic sequence of events here) follows the H.M.S. Surprise when a superior enemy, the French Archeron, suddenly attacks. With the Surprise badly damaged and much of his crew injured, Aubrey is torn between duty and friendship as he pursues a high-stakes chase across two oceans, to intercept and capture his foe. It's a mission that can make his reputation — or destroy Lucky Jack and his crew.
As for Russell Crowe, this is not a film that will make his reputation. His portrayal of Lucky Jack consists of drinking, sneering, yelling, some more drinking, attacking an allegorical dessert and offering the stiff upper lip of a good British Naval Officer. His men will follow him to the ends of the earth; but can the audience stomach two hours of boring melodrama that does not even include a good speech? Considering that Crowe is known for dominating pictures with the force of his personality, he is surprisingly lackluster here.
Paul Bettany as the ship's surgeon presents most of the diversions: he is simultaneously idealistic and harshly practical (when did they invent anesthesia anyway?). Other characters all blend together into unfortunate anonymity. This movie is a perfect example of why popular books, like those written by Patrick O'Brian, should not be turned into bad movies.
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