Swashbuckling Russell Crowe on course to sweep the board at film awards

A Napoleonic tale of derring-do starring Russell Crowe is likely to dominate the first major awards ceremony of the year.

Master and Commander, described by The Independent's film critic Anthony Quinn as "a robustly gripping tale of adventure on the high seas", has been nominated for six honours at this year's London Film Critics' Circle Awards, to be held next month.

The swashbuckling drama has been shortlisted forfilm of the year, best director, best screenwriter, best actor (Crowe), best British actor (Paul Bettany), and best British actor in a supporting role (David Threlfall). The film, directed by Peter Weir, has also been nominated for three Golden Globe awards in Hollywood.

The field of British hopefuls at the London awards is led by the low-budget Young Adam, which has been nominated in seven categories.

Ewan McGregor is in the running for best British actor and David Mackenzie is up for three awards: best British director; best British screenwriter; and best British newcomer.

The Scottish thriller, which raised eyebrows with its sex scenes between McGregor and Emily Mortimer, is the story of a young drifter who discovers the corpse of a woman.

Film of the year will be a battle between Master and Commander, The Hours, Far From Heaven, Mystic River and The Lord Of The Rings: The Return Of The King.

The Hours, a tale of three women, one of them Virginia Woolf, is nominated for film of the year, British film of the year, best British director (Stephen Daldry), best actor (Ed Harris), best actress (Nicole Kidman), best screenwriter, and best British actor in a supporting role (Stephen Dillane). Kidman faces stiff competition from Julianne Moore's performance in Far From Heaven.

Peter Jackson, director of The Lord of the Rings trilogy, earns a nomination for his direction of the final instalment.

Crowe faces opposition in the best actor category from Ed Harris, Sean Penn (Mystic River), Bill Murray (Lost in Translation) and Nicholas Cage (Adaptation).

The winners will be announced at a ceremony at The Dorchester hotel in London on 11 February, held in aid of the NSPCC.

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