Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World
Peter Weir wrote and directed this Oscar-nominated masterpiece depicting life at sea in the early 17th Century. The performances by Crowe, Bettany, and young Max Pirkis as midshipman Blakeney stand out along with the phenomenal character development by Weir. In the end, you feel as if you have been part of the crew.
The production garnered 10 Oscar nominations but only prevailed in two categories: cinematography and sound editing. Unfortunately for Weir, the film was up against The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King, which swept the awards with 11 wins, including Best Picture and Best Director. In any other year, I don't see how this film wouldn't have won the lion's share of the awards.
I own the previously released DVD, and the improvement in quality on the Blu-ray disc is not as dramatic as I've seen with other releases. Color accuracy is excellent, but the resolution falters in many scenes. Low-light situations lack depth and dimensionality due to the style of photography, not necessarily the AVC encode. Grain is prevalent, which isn’t a bad thing, considering that grain is a byproduct of film, and I prefer the natural look versus some high-frequency filtering.
The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1-channel soundtrack is one of the most dynamic and immersive experiences I have ever heard. Comparing the opening battle sequence on DVD and Blu-ray highlights the added depth and imaging that the lossless mix provides, with seamless integration between all speakers. In fact, there are moments when the ceiling comes alive as the crew paces the deck above. Dialog is difficult to hear on occasion due to the hectic action, but this only adds to the realism of the moment.
The bonus features are a bit of a disappointment compared with the two-disc DVD release. Included from that release are 24 minutes of deleted scenes (in SD) as well as the theatrical trailer (HD). The Blu-ray exclusives include a "Historical and Geographical" trivia track, a pop-up map revealing where the scene you are watching is located, Fox's "search content" function, personal scene selections, and motion code for D-Box equipped furniture.
Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World is one of my favorite movies from this century—so far, at least—and I am happy that Fox chose to release it on Blu-ray. The video upgrade over the DVD is minimal, but the audio soundtrack is jaw-dropping. Highly recommended.
Release Date: May 13, 2008
Film: 10 out of 10
Picture: 6 out of 10
Sound: 10 out of 10
JVC DLA-RS1 projector
Stewart FireHawk screen (76.5" wide, 16:9)
Onkyo PR-SC885 pre/pro
Anthem PVA-7 Amplifier
Belkin PF60 power conditioner
M&K S-150s (L, C, R)
M&K SS-150s (LS, RS, SBL, SBR)
SVS PC-Ultra subwoofer
Monoprice HDMI cables (source to pre/pro)
Best Deal analog-audio cables
PureLink HDC Fiber Optic HDMI Cable System (15 meters) from pre/pro to projector