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A view from the Blu (-ray) on DVDBeaver by Leonard Norwitz


A Little Background     Openers     


    Modus Operandi     The Scorecard:     

Emotive Connection      Audio     Operations    Extras     The Movie     Equipment




Master and Commander [Blu-ray]


(Peter Weir, 2003)







Review by Leonard Norwitz




Blu-ray: 20th Century Fox Pictures Home Entertainment



Region: A

Runtime: 138 min

Chapters: 36

Size: 50 GB

Case: Standard Blu-ray case: 1 disc

Release date: May 13, 2008



Aspect ratio: 2.40:1

Resolution: 1080p

Video codec: AVC @ 25 MBPS



English DTS HD 5.1 Master Lossless, Spanish & French 5.1 DD



English, English SDH, Spanish, Cantonese and Korean



• Historical & Geographical Trivia Track

• Pop-Up Map

• Deleted Scenes

• Theatrical Trailer in HD

• Personal Scene Selections

• Enhanced for D-Box Motion Control Systems




The Film:

Critical support for Master and Commander was high - Rotten Tomatoes gave it an 84. Metacritic.com reviewers scored 81 - while their "Users" gave it only 5.5 and Amazon Users scored higher with 75). This Blu-ray DVD provided me with a third viewing, and each time I watch it I think more highly of it. In 2003 Russell Crowe was perhaps at the peak of his popularity but many felt he was overexposed, both on film and personally. This, and the filmmakers' frankly literate approach, may have dampened popular enthusiasm. In any case, it won deserved Oscars for Russell Boyd's brooding Cinematography and Richard King's subtle and dynamic Sound Editing. It was nominated in eight other categories including Best Picture and Best Director, but lost to the final installment of Lord of the Rings (It's an absurd idea, in my opinion, to give such an award to the third part of what really is, after all, a three part film. It's like honoring the final chapter of a Dickens novel while it's still in serial form. I guess the Academy couldn't figure out how to do the math.) I would also have given nods – and do so now – to both Paul Bettany as the "Master" of the title and Max Pirkis as young Midshipman Blakeney.

The Movie : 9
It has been said that war is interminable boredom interrupted by moments of absolute, ferocious terror. To the extent Peter Weir wishes to honor that truism, he fills the spaces between the actual fighting with conversation – some of it philosophical and probing - and music – some of it played on the cello and violin by the ship's captain and it chief surgeon. If you know or know of the novels by Patrick O'Brian, you know these two men – friends for many years - to be opposite, yet complementary, Jungian types: the man of action vs. the man of reflection, the soldier vs. the humanist. The year is 1805. Lucky Jack Aubrey is in command of the HMS Surprise, a small British warship on orders to seize or destroy the French ship Acheron. The Surprise is outmanned and outgunned, yet chases its objective (and sometimes vice-versa) down one coast of South America, around Cape Horn, and up the other before matters come to a head... once again.


Image: 8 (7~8.5/9)
The score of 8 indicates a relative level of excellence compared to other Blu-ray DVDs on a ten point scale. The score in parentheses represents: first, a value for the image in absolute terms; and, second, how that image compares to what I believe is the current best we can expect in the theatre.

I movie that takes place to a great extent in the fog and the dark can hardly be expected to have a neat as a pin image, and Master and Commander is no exception. Grain and what not is to be expected. In fact, comparisons between the SD and BRD in these scenes do not appear to offer much of a reason for an upgrade. But somehow the sea has mass on the Blu-ray that the SD lacks. This is apparent right from the start of chapter 2 when we see the HMS Surprise in a beautifully crafted nighttime aerial shot. By comparison, the sea on SD is like cotton candy, hardly the frightening, yet seductive organism that is our planet's ocean system.

SD - TOP vs. Blu-ray BOTTOM



SD - TOP vs. Blu-ray BOTTOM








Audio & Music:

Audio & Music : 10/9
The SD 5.1 DD sound mix was decent, but lacked both the nuance and the whacking slam of the new DTS HD 5.1. Everything from the creak of the ship, to the distant bell restrained by fog, to the churn of the sea to the incredible destruction of the cannon is fully realized on this Blu-ray. The sound palette is a big part of what rivets our attention during the doldrums, of which there is plenty, you'll remember.


Operations: 7
An interesting thing about the way the menu functions is its relaxed approach to the activation of each instruction – those doldrums again. I rather liked the effect.

Extras: 2
Well, there was nothing at all – unless you count previews, which I don't – on the basic SD, but lots on the second disc of the 2-disc Collector's Edition, pretty near none of which find their way on this Blu-ray. Given a 50 GB capability, this is inexcusable.



Bottom line:

Recommendation : 6
This is a hard call. Certainly the improvements in sound and, to a lesser extent, the image are worth the upgrade. No question there. But to not have Extra Features!

Leonard Norwitz
May 4, 2008






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