Pirates Of The Caribbean


Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

Pirates Of The Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl
"Basing his character largely on Keith Richards and looking like a refugee from Adam Ant's Dog Eat Dog video, Johnny Depp crashes through the film, chewing up scenery and spitting it out with aplomb." | Photo: Disney

Pirates Of The Caribbean provides pretty much exactly what one would expect from a film based on an amusement park ride, but for the fact that it is amusing - in fact, quite entertaining all round, and definitely a cut above most of this summer's other blockbusters.

Orlando Bloom seems to have lost all his charisma, though he can still buckle a swash quite effectively; Keira Knightly is slightly more feisty but still rather bland; but in this pantomimic story they don't need to be interesting, they're only Brad and Janet. Sweet transvestite Johnny Depp's colossal performance, astride some very shallow waters, is more than worth the price of admission. Basing his character largely on Keith Richards and looking like a refugee from Adam Ant's Dog Eat Dog video, he crashes through the film, chewing up scenery and spitting it out with aplomb.

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He swings about on ropes, he engages in dramatic swordplay, he rips open bodices and he fills up his pockets with treasure... he gets locked up an awful lot, and beaten up, and he seems to be continually inebriated, yet nevertheless he is somehow convincing as a man who can get away with anything. He has the charm of a faded rock star about to embark on still more adventures because he's not sure what else he'd do with his life. His failures, as much as his successes, contribute to his glory. He is the reason why small children dream of being pirates, and they, too, seem to find him tremendous fun.

A film with such a charismatic hero needs an equally striking villain. In comes the cursed zombie ancient mariner Captain Barbossa, creaking and skeletal by moonlight, crazed and creepy and, for all his complaints, clearly delighting in it all. It's refreshing to see such a part properly cast. Geoffrey Rush has the actorly substance to play someone physically lacking in substance with conviction and a certain vicious glee.

Here is the dark side of pirate life, the violence and rapaciousness and greed. Young children may find it terrifying, though this is the sort of scary ride which will leave them feeling just fine if they see it through to the end. There's first class zombie action with the pirate crew manning their ragged ship, raiding coastal settlements, hacking and slashing, looting and burning. So far as action is concerned, this film really delivers.

Where the film falls down, it's mostly due to lack of narrative substance; the flimsy plot is stretched beyond the limits of sense. There are periods when one watches the fighting for 10 minutes knowing that there's an obvious solution and waiting until one of the characters - who don't otherwise seem that dim - gets on with it. Furthermore, the film runs into difficulty because it isn't really sure what to do with its amoral characters. Its love triangles are resolved in a manner which is charming, civilised, and utterly devoid of passion. At the end, the audience obviously wants Depp's character to get away, but it makes no sense at all for the good people of the settlement to allow him to do so, knowing that he'll return to plunder their ships and threaten their lives. There is no sense of direction about how this is handled; the film wusses out of dealing with the issues it has raised, and consequently loses its edge.

All in all, Pirates of the Caribbean is a feeble story but a damn good ride.

Reviewed on: 27 Jun 2007
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Epic romp with supernatural pirates and Johnny Depp mincing about with an Essex accent
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Angus Wolfe Murray ***

Director: Gore Verbinski

Writer: Ted Elliott, Terry Rossio

Starring: Johnny Depp, Geoffrey Rush, Orlando Bloom, Keira Knightley, Jack Davenport, Jonathan Pryce, Lee Arenberg, Mackenzie Crook, Damian O'Hare, Giles New, Angus Barnett, David Bailie

Year: 2003

Runtime: 143 minutes

BBFC: 12A - Adult Supervision

Country: US


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