But a little while later, when Maturin's life is at stake, Aubrey lets duty be damned, and the ship lands at the Galapagos. Here we see a tender side of the captain, as he gently helps his friend. Here too we get a sight of Maturin's bravery, of a sort very different from his captain's, but no less awe-inspiring. Aubrey, for example, can only look on in wonder as Maturin performs a brutal surgery on himself.
The men subtly bring out the best in each other, as true friends do. In this respect, the casting was inspired. Director Peter Weir chose Bettany, a man who had worked so well with Crowe in "A Beautiful Mind." Crowe has said that on that first film together, they developed a kind of creative shorthand.
Their ease and comfort with each other is immediately evident on board their ship, the HMS Surprise. As the adventures continue, the couple bicker and make up a few more times, as fond old couples do. And every time, they soon go back to making beautiful music together. Literally. In a sweet routine, the friends regularly end their evenings with a violin-cello duet.
It's observed by the crew members as something of an oddity, but one that they endure respectfully.
What's really odd, though, is that male friendships aren't more common, and more respected themselves. But society is slowly opening up. On television, gay men are welcomed as friends to straight guys ("Queer Eye for the Straight Guy") and to each other (Will and Jack's relationship in "Will & Grace.") Perhaps "Master and Commander" will usher in an era where straight men are afforded the same consideration.
I can already hear the pitch: "It's a 'Beaches' for men!"