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"Master and Commander"

Reviewed by Victor Niederhoffer


The first movie based on the Patrick O'Brian's great sea-faring novels.

Speculators have much to learn from the movie's presentation of some of the deceptive tactics used by Aubrey. The ship's surgeon/secret agent Stephen Maturin gives the captain a lesson on deception in the stick insect (which see full treatment of in Education of a Speculator) and then Aubrey uses it to pretend he's a mixed-up whaler before boarding a French vessel -- whose captain pretends to be that ship's surgeon before making his escape.

Master and Commander also offers a proper template for a trading room, where disaster can strike at any time and it's always to imperative to be on guard. Even more essential in the trading environment is to always laugh at the captain's or trading manager's jokes. There is an excellent toast by the captain: "To wives and sweethearts, may they never meet"; some good Locatelli played at appropriate times; some retelling of the two times that Aubrey saw Nelson. Excellent rendition and footage of Jack's "lesser of two weevils" joke. Nice trip to the Galapagos, where Darwin discovered the wingless cormorant and other adaptations. A little romance, much disaster footage, many authentic details on drumming, piping, storage, bailing and food.

Regrettably, director Peter Weir piled his own material into the plot, evidently in the belief that he is a far better writer than Patrick O'Brian. The result was an unharmonious mix of Henry IV, The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, and superstitions about ghost ships, none of which added anything significant or pleasing. The worst damage was done to the character of Stephen Maturin and his friendship with Jack Aubrey. In the original, Maturin is one of the most finely drawn characterizations in fiction. The movie stripped away his role as an intelligence officer with an implacable hatred of Napoleon and all dictators, and portrayed him as an antiwar activist fighting with Jack. The combined effect of these changes was lamentable.


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