Peter Weir's rollicking epic set on the high seas is based on Patrick O'Brian's successful novels. Set during the Napoleonic Wars, it stars Russell Crowe (pictured) as Captain Jack Aubrey, captain of HMS Surprise.
Stationed off the coast of Brazil, he is tasked with stopping the French privateer Acheron but it is the French ship that surprises the Surprise, outgunning Aubrey's ship. Slipping away under cover of fog, Aubrey repairs the Surprise and sets off in pursuit of the Acheron across the Atlantic and round the Cape of Good Horn into the Pacific. And when the two meet in battle, Aubrey must use all his seamanship and cunning to defeat his enemy.
The two battles bookend the film, with the pursuit (and a terrifying typhoon off the Cape) the key action scenes, but Weir weaves in two other gripping elements. The first is a realistic look at life on board a fighting ship, using the research O'Brian incorporated into his novels to produce a more genuine picture of the conditions and deprivations than, say, Pirates of the Caribbean. The second is the casting of Paul Bettany as Dr Stephen Maturin, the ship's surgeon and scientist, and Aubrey's less volatile counterpart, his best friend. Their relationship allows both plot exposition and character development, adding a weight to the action sequences - by the final battle, the viewer knows Aubrey as a rounded figure rather than an all-action seafarer.
Superbly shot by Russell Boyd, this is as accurate account of life on board a 19th-century ship that the cinema is likely to see.