“Put us in that fog, Tom.”

One of my favorite moments in Master and Commander is probably 2 seconds long. And it involves James D’Arcy who gives one of my favorite performances in the film, as 1st Lieutenant Tom Pullings. It’s my favorite kind of acting: understated, powerful, specific – NOT the lead – and absolutely the success of the film depends on guys like James D’Arcy (even more so than Russell Crowe) playing his part and playing it well. The old Hollywood studio system was buoyed up by character actors – who made the stars (who were already awesome) look even better. D’Arcy, as Pullings, puts Crowe’s power as an actor into sharp relief. Nobody acts alone. You need your cast members to step up to the plate as well. Master and Commander is not a soliloquy. Everyone in the film is magnificent – but James D’Arcy, with his not so flashy part, is my favorite. And it’s not just because the dude is smokin’ hot.

In the first battle scene of the film, when they encounter The Acheron – and Aubrey realizes they will have to outrun the ship in order to have a fighting chance – the two men stand on the deck, looking out at the man o’ war bearing down on them. Pullings waits for his orders. Will they stay and fight? What is next?

Aubrey turns, with a mischievous grin, and says, “Put us in that fog, Tom” and stalks away.

Pullings stares out at the Acheron for a second, turns – and watches Aubrey walk off, the realization dawning on him of the brilliance of the plan. And his face transforms. From a sort of harassed type of war-moment focus, to a relaxed excited grin.

I remember when I first saw the film. I remember how the moment landed with me. Yes, the film was exciting up to that point. I love Peter Weir, in particular … but it was that one moment – the “Put us in that fog, Tom” command – and James D’Arcy’s subtle transformation of expression – when the movie really GOT me. It still does. Power in acting does not have to be grandiose, loud, or full of gestures. It can be as simple as a face changing from anxiety to excitement.

Kudos to Mr. D’Arcy.


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14 Responses to “Put us in that fog, Tom.”

  1. Sharon Ferguson says:

    Pullings is Jack’s Mini-Me LOL!!

    I havent forgotten your last email to me! Im just being stupidly lazy…Im sorry!!

    (and I love that smile he gives!)

    (and yes, I am so with you: D’arcy’s smokin hot…but my heart so THUDS! for Jack…not just Russell Crowe…but JACK! – always to be written with an exclamation point, no less LOL)

    I liked the moment at the Captain’s table, when Jack spoke of the time when Pullings was a “sniveling midshipman” and how he laughed with his expression, not just his voice.

  2. Jay says:

    I abso-frickin’-lutely love Master and Commander. Great performances all around.

    What I appreciate most about the film is that it is so un-PC and doesn’t delve into apologetics trying to explain away anachronisms. It just presents things as they were: Children at war,the hardness of heart required for battle and for leadership in battle, the brutality of it all. There is no contrived love story to demonstrate the humanity of the characters, no token people of different races playing important roles so as to appease the bean counters who want to make sure every group gets represented. Just a simple yet very compelling story, unvarnished and raw. Crowe is great in such stories, probably because he is somewhat unvarnished himself.

    And what can be better than kicking the shit out of the French? With flintlocks and swords, no less.

    Anyway, where I am currently, gives me an even greater appreciation for hardness of spirit and heart that is often required for combat and especially leadership in combat. I obviously am not in a position that requires it, but I am around a lot of people from whom such is required. Being near it is a lot different than reading about it, seeing it in a movie or even hearing about it from friends. It makes my appreciation that much greater.

  3. red says:

    Sharon – yes, I love that moment too at the table! And the moment when Aubrey makes him a captain – at the end – it’s so so moving!

  4. red says:

    Oh, and it’s interesting – if you look at D’Arcy’s IMDB page that’s really the most high-profile thing he’s done. Most of it is television – good television – but with those looks and that ability I would totally have thought he’d be on his way to being a leading man – in stuff like Atonement or what have you. But there’s an interesting quote from him on the IMDB page – how he has “no ambition” or something like that – he just wants to work. He doesn’t really care about being famous.

    I love that attitude – especially when someone is truly gifted, like he is.

  5. red says:

    Oh and Sharon – Yes to your comments about Jack! I think this might be another situation where you and I could go on a double date.

    I am so looking forward to reading the rest of the series – because there’s a moment when Aubrey is writing a letter to “My Dearest Sophie” and I was like: WHO THE HELL IS SOPHIE??

    I love, too, how drunk he gets at the table. Even bordering on sloppy. He’s always jovial, but he definitely likes his drink – it makes him so human.

    And Paul Bellamy as the doctor is absolutely magnificent.

    How about when he operates on himself? Every single actor in that scene is just so so good – they all have their job to do, they all have feelings about what is going on (they are grossed out, scared, whatever) – but they have to do their part. WONDERFUL sene.

  6. Sal says:

    Ditto the love for M&C.
    Especially Jay’s take. There’s no ‘black woman dentist’ (a phrase an old friend and I made up for PC-ness) going on there. This is how it was- deal.

    Do not EVER get me started on character actors. They are the gravity that keep the stars in motion. There are exceptions, but give me an ensemble over a star turn almost anyday. No one put a foot wrong in that movie.

  7. red says:

    There’s a look, too, on the dude’s face who accidentally shoots the doctor … it’s after the doctor operates on himself – and the guy, who is horrified, waits outside the tent … and Aubrey comes out and gives him a look, like “it’s going to be okay” – and that guy’s expression!!! Wonderful stuff!

    I really don’t want any more comments ranting about PC-bullshit, although there are parts of that I agree with. Conversations like that have a way of degenerating quickly, and I can’t allow it. Sorry.

    Thanks much.

  8. red says:

    And yes, I agree – that that is one of the best things about Mater & Commander – what an old-school ensemble it is. Thrilling to watch. I totally believed I was on that ship. The guys in the hold with the guns, the dudes hanging from the masts, people painting and working – you really got the sense of how BUSY everyone was at all times … and how amazing it is that there were that many people on board.

    I remember when reading Master & Commander – the first one – my last book of 2007 – there’s a section where Aubrey explains to the doctor (if I am remembering right) that no, there is not enough room for everyone to go to sleep at the same time … everything is in shifts – vast groups of people up on deck, vast groups of people below – not enough room for all of them in one place at the same time. It amazed me.

    Makes me think of that scary statistic that if everyone in New York City all came out of the buildings at the same moment, there would not be enough room for all of us on the sidewalks. We saw that in action during the heat wave a couple years ago … I have never seen such crowds in my life. Manhattan is always crowded – but looking at those scenes made me realize just how many people live here.

  9. Fai-lymm says:

    Tom Pullings is damn hot!!
    I love his smile he gives during the movie!!

  10. Fai-lymm says:

    Tom Pullings is damn hot!!
    I love his smile he gives during the movie!!

  11. Fai-lynn says:

    Sorry it’s Fai-lynn not Fai-lymm

  12. Fai-lynn D'arcy says:

    He is just so gorgeous!!
    I love the smile he gives in that picture!

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  14. Michael Grelis says:

    I wonder if James D’Arcy was considered for the role of King George 6, in The King’s Speech? Taking nothing away from Colin Firth’s magnificent job, and a thoroughly deserved Oscar; D’Arcy would have been my choice. He looks like the late King, and would certainly have the chops for the task. I loved Firth in the role, the only problem I had, was that he didn’t look like him. I know that some will say it doesn’t matter, it’s a characterisation, the actors skill is in making you believe. To that I say, Yes up to a point-but if that is always true, why did Helen Mirren and her behind camera colleagues (The Queen) take so much trouble to get QE2′s look, walk, (which Helen didn’t quite master BTW) dress, speech etc. Because it matters. Ditto for the upcoming Iron Lady (I’m putting my money on an Oscar for Meryl Streep for this one in 2012.) Why does it matter?-Because we KNOW these characters-and there are miles and miles of film, photographs, anecdotes, etc of KG6 for him to be so familiar-and there are still plenty of people alive who knew him.
    Anyway, D’Arcy has a great talent, and hopefully he’ll get that break out role.

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