As The Crowe Flies

Subtle seafaring actioner set during the Napoleonic wars

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Peter weir’s spectacularly mounted conflation of a couple of Patrick O’Brien’s hugely popular seafaring yarns, handsomely set during the Napoleonic Wars, is a rare contemporary example of classic movie storytelling, in which subtle characterisation and well-balanced narrative are as important as gung-ho action sequences and the usual sensory bombardment of the multiplex blockbuster. Russell Crowe, never better, is “Lucky” Jack Aubrey, commander of HMS Surprise, charged with the destruction of the formidable French warship the Acheron (a barely-seen but grimly vindictive phantom). Paul Bettany as the ship’s surgeon is a wry foil to Crowe’s noble intransigence, vocally contesting Jack’s growing obsession with the Acheron, to which the Surprise gives long and arduous chase?through fearsome storms, freezing seas and becalmed torpor. As the man said, bloody brilliant.

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