Several things raise this above the typical "Napoleonic sea battle" film. Nearly the entire action (except for a short sojourn on the Galapagos Islands) takes place aboard a single ship, and no action takes place from the point of view of the enemy ship. This lends a great immediacy to the film. Also, atypically for this style of drama, there is very little brutal naval discipline -- there's one minor flogging, but most of the time it's a "hard but fair" life. The battle scenes are terrifyingly realistic, with shattering violence, destruction, and death, but not with loads of horrific on-screen gore. Russell Crowe as Jack Aubrey seems a bit out of place on one of His Majesty's ships whilst piratically posing on the foremast, but the rest of the time he portrays a believable sea captain.
And, from an Honorverse perspective, two or three scenes have very strong resonances with Honor's battles (although her Captain's Dinners are rather more decorous).
reviewed 12 December 2003