🎥🍣 Movie Sushi — Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World

AdGridley
4 min readNov 3, 2020

It’s April 1805 and Napoleon Bonaparte is master of Europe. Upon the oceans, only the British fleet stands against him. Aboard the HMS Surprise, on the north coast of Brazil, Capt Jack Aubrey has his orders: “Intercept French privateer Acheron en route to Pacific. …Sink, burn or take her a prize.”

On deck, in the fog, Mr Hollom thinks he sees another warship and so Mr Calamy yells “beat to stations”. The whole crew quickly prepares for attack. Food is swept off tables and replaced with war maps. Capt Jack dons his cutlass and someone helps him on with his coat as he strides through the galley. On deck, it’s subsequently decided that it’s only fog.

Later, Jack sees flashes of gunfire in the distance. He immediately orders all hands down and cannonballs tear into the ship — injuring and killing and splintering the woodwork.

Capt Jack sails directly at the Acheron which fires again upon the Surprise — but the crew hold fast. Now the smaller Surprise is within range, it returns fire. Crewmen are dead where they fall, some even hanging upside down from the rigging. Capt Jack is brought down but quickly recovers. His ship’s rudder is destroyed, so the steering won’t answer. He deploys dinghies to steer the Surprise but the Acheron continues to fire upon them. The water leaking in the hold is now two and a half feet deep.

Jack assesses the French attack. The French captain cut across their tail and took out their rudder. Damn fine gunnery says Capt Jack. Seven weeks sailing and he happens in darkness on our exact position. His friend the surgeon suggests the Surprise is quite old, but Jack leaps to her defence. He says she’s of bluff bow, lovely lines. Weatherly, stiff and fast. She’s not old, he says, she’s in her prime.

On the east coast of Brazil, Jack still doesn’t want to go home. He wants to refit the ship at sea so he can keep pursuing the Acheron. Two crewmen give Jack a wooden model of the Acheron after one of them earlier saw the ship being built. Now Capt Jack knows that the Acheron is a heavier ship, but faster. She has forty-four guns with a two-foot thick hull that can travel up to 280 miles per day. Nevertheless, Jack’s certain that the Acheron is still weak at the stern.

During a storm, the Surprise’s mast breaks in two. Capt Jack makes the difficult decision to cut free some ballast, consequentially sacrificing a man to the sea so that the rest of the crew shall live.

They brace the Galapagos Islands. They notice fantastic creatures like flightless cormorants and iguanas that swim. Survivors of another British ship are rescued and given food and water. Jack still wants to get the Acheron. The surgeon thinks they’re missing out on inestimable wonders by leaving so early, but Jack rubbishes his concerns as just hobbies.

Jack is running war games. The crew can fire all 28 cannons in two minutes and one second, they manage to get this time down to one minute and ten seconds. Everyone involved gets extra grog.

The old sea dog speaks about the Biblical tale of Jonah. Jonah offended God and so he and his crew were cursed. The sea dog suggests that Mr Hollom is Jonah. They begin hating Mr Hollom and grow conspiratorial around him. After dark, Mr Hollom walks through the crew’s quarters. Everyone darkly tips their hat to him. The old sea dog highlights the fact that every time Mr Hollom is on watch, the Acheron appears. Above deck, Mr Hollom says goodbye to Mr Blakeney, gathers his attached cannonball and jumps overboard to his death.

There’s a rare bird spotted. Someone goes to shoot it, but hits the surgeon instead. A piece of his shirt went into the wound along with the shot and this could fester if not immediately removed. Using a hand mirror, the surgeon successfully operates on himself to remove these things.

When the surgeon shows Capt Jack an insect that pretends to be a stick to fool others, the captain has an idea. They’ll pretend to be a whaling vessel to get close to the Acheron. He is impressed that the study of nature can advance the art of naval warfare. Smoke is produced to bring visibility right down. Swords are sharpened and the guns have fresh flints in their locks. Rear wheels are unshipped from cannons to account for the unusual proximity of the attack. Everybody is dressed like a whaler — with no sirs or saluting allowed. All the crew have a black band on their right arm so allies are better identified. Quick’s the word and sharp’s the action, says Jack, Surprise is on their side.

The French call out that they’re boarding and Jack’s ship starts cannon-fire. Ropes and Jack boards are thrown across to the other ship followed by the men. Mr Blakeney fires a cannon through the other ship and boards through the hole. In the French infirmary, Capt Jack is told that the French captain just died, but, out of respect, he wanted Jack to have his cutlass.

All Jack’s dead crewmen have their hammocks ceremoniously stitched up around them as is customary. Everybody recites the Lord’s Prayer and the name and rank of all the dead are read out. All whalers are brought aboard the Surprise. Jack says they’ll rendez-vous in Portsmouth before then promoting Pullings to captain the newly-captured Acheron.

As the Surprise heads back to the Galapagos Islands for supplies, it becomes quickly evident that the French captain was only pretending to be surgeon when he handed Jack his sword. Jack casually orders beat to quarters and commences his violin playing as the ship sails once again into battle.

Starring Russell Crowe. Paul Bettany. Billy Boyd. Rated 12A. Dir Peter Weir. Released in the UK 2003. Runtime 2hrs 18mins

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AdGridley

Ad teaches & gives speeches on his MH struggle + recovery at institutions right across the world. (Movie Sushi pieces contain spoilers)