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Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest - Review

Johnny Depp in Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest

Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 3.5 out of 5

DVD SPECIAL FEATURES: Deleted scenes; Producer Jerry Bruckheimer’s Photo Diary and Featurette; Special featurettes – Captain Jack and Davey Jones; Commentaries; The Making Of Dead Man’s Chest; Bloopers of the Caribbean.

FEW could have predicted that the original Pirates of the Caribbean would unearth such box office treasure when it was released in 2003. But thanks to a memorable performance from Johnny Depp as Captain Jack Sparrow, it practically sailed away with the summer.

Well, Cap’n Jack is back for at least another two films – the first of which is Dead Man’s Chest – and his mis-adventures continue to entertain despite being darker and more drawn out.

Director Gore Verbinski has clearly opted for an Empire Strikes Back approach to this sequel that pits Jack and his colleagues in all sorts of peril, while testing their friendship and loyalties to the limit.

But while this certainly makes for a meatier story, there’s so much going on that the film occasionally veers off course and becomes water-logged by unnecessary characters and needlessly complex story arcs.

Fortunately, Johnny Depp remains at the centre of proceedings, as Captain Jack finds himself at the mercy of Davy Jones (Bill Nighy), a tentacled villain who has risen from the murky depths of the Caribbean to claim a blood debt. If Jack fails to pay, he’ll unleash the legendary kraken.

Jack’s only real chance of escape is to find the dead man’s chest of the title but, as usual, he’s not the only one after it.

The new head of the East India Trading Company, Cutler Beckett (Tom Hollander), also wants it and enlists the help of the soon-to-be-married Will Turner (Orlando Bloom) and Elizabeth Swann (Keira Knightley) to do so.

If they fail, both will be hanged for aiding the escape of Jack Sparrow at the end of the original.

Thrown into this mix is disgraced ex-Commodore Norrington (Jack Davenport), still seeking revenge, and Bootstrap Bill Turner (Stellan Skarsgård), Will’s late father who has become a prisoner aboard Davy Jones’ ship.

Needless to say, the film takes some time to set up these scenarios and frequently feels like it’s working over time in service of the final act – 2007’s At World End.

But it’s saved by some truly inspired set pieces and another winning performance from Depp, clearly revelling in the opportunity to revisit one of his (and our) favourite characters.

Jack is as wily, camp and hilarious as ever, whether trying to outwit an island full of cannibals, or double-crossing those he supposedly holds dear for his own personal gain.

Part of what keeps Dead Man’s Chest so intriguing is Jack’s sheer unpredictability given that he seldom does what’s expected even of an anti-hero!

Bill Nighy’s villain is another of the film’s assets – both incredible to look at (in terms of CGI) and a worthy adversary for anyone who gets in his path. Despite being virtually unrecognisable beneath the make-up, the actor still manages to bring some of his trademark charisma to the role.

But what really ensures that Dead Man’s Chest retains the crowd-pleasing ability of its predecessor are the film’s outrageous set pieces which are both laugh-out loud funny and breathtakingly spectacular.

Jack’s escape from an island of cannibals while tied to a pole over-laden with exotic fruits sets the standard early on and is both superbly executed and cartoonishly good fun – as is an almighty tussle inside a giant spinning wheel.

While the emergence of the kraken from the depths of the ocean is a marvel of special effects that’s both exciting and jaw-dropping at the same time.

By the time the film reaches its cliffhanger ending, audiences should be suitably craving the next part of the tale.

For all of its failings, then, this sequel still remains savvy enough to deliver another treasure trove at the box office, while keeping the feel-good factor competently afloat.

Read our Johnny Depp interview

Read our interview with Orlando Bloom

Read our interview with Keira Knightley

Read our interview with Bill Nighy

Certificate: 12A
Running time: 2hrs 30mins