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Pirates of the Caribbean (12A)



Review by: Jack Foley | Rating: Two

DVD SPECIAL FEATURES: Commentary by director Gore Verbinski and star Johnny Depp, producer Jerry Bruckheimer, Keira Knightly, Jack Davenport and screenwriters Stuart Beattie, Ted Elliott, Terry Rossio and Jay Wolbert; An Epic At Sea; Fly on the set; Diaries; Below Deck; Blooper reel; Deleted scenes; Moonlight Serenade scene progression; Image gallery; Pirates in the parks; Enhanced computer features.

THE pirate movie genre has seemed like the cinematic equivalent of walking the plank for those who dared to sail its troubled waters in recent times, so the prospect of sitting through a two-hour plus swashbuckler, that is also based on a theme park ride, seemed enough to make anyone feel sea-sick at the prospect.

Yet Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl arrives like a breath of fresh air amid the current crop of blockbuster sequels, stealing the thunder of many with its breathless mix of modern-day special effects and classic, tongue-in-cheek skulduggery.

Producer, Jerry Bruckheimer, and director, Gore Verbinski, have done what many thought was impossible, by keeping a pirate movie afloat in the middle of cinema’s busiest season, thanks to the efforts of its stellar cast and crew.

Though taking its inspiration from the Disney theme park ride of the same name, and containing several visual references, the movie stands on its own two feet, thanks largely to the combined script-writing talents of Ted Elliott and Rerry Rossio, the men responsible for the equally swashbuckling Mask of Zorro, as well as Shrek.

The movie contains a gleeful wit that harks back to the golden days of the genre, evoking memories of the playful stupidity of Burt Lancaster’s The Crimson Pirate, as well as the panache of classic Errol Flynn.

And in Johnny Depp, Verbinski has found the ultimate Jolly Roger - a gloriously offbeat central ‘hero’, who effortlessly steals every scene he is in with the type of performance that defies superlatives.

His Captain Jack Sparrow, a legend in his own mind, is the type of creation that could easily have backfired, sinking the movie with it, but his performance is one which brings added enjoyment to an already worthy adventure, and has been described, by his co-stars, as a sort of ‘Keith Richards meets Tommy Cooper, with an element of Pepe Le Pue’.

Sparrow is the former captain of the legendary Black Pearl, a notorious pirate ship, now helmed by the wily Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush), which has been doomed to the world of the undead by a cursed treasure.

When Barbossa kidnaps Elizabeth Swann, the beautiful daughter (Keira Knightley) of the town of Port Royal’s Governor (Jonathan Pryce), as part of his plan to reverse the curse, Sparrow teams up with Orlando Bloom’s love-struck Will Turner in a bid to get her back, stealing the Navy’s flagship vessel, the HMS Interceptor, and provoking the wrath of Swann’s betrothed (Jack Davenport).

The ensuing chase culminates with the inevitable confrontation between Sparrow and Barbossa, as well as his crew of pirates, who are transformed into living skeletons by moonlight (as part of an obvious nod to the effects work of Ray Harryhausen), on the mysterious Isla de Muerta.

At two hours and 20 minutes, Pirates of the Caribbean is probably a little too long, yet viewers should be having too much fun to notice.

Aside from Depp, there are several performances to savour, with Bloom cutting a suitably suave leading-man figure, and Knightley revelling in the opportunity to be more than just a damsel in distress. Rush, too, displays a nice line in comic timing as the villain of the piece, and provides a neat foil to the eccentric Sparrow.

Yet it is Depp that you will truly remember and he, more than anyone, helps to ensure that this is one Summer movie to treasure.

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