cast: Johnny Depp, Orlando Bloom, Keira Knightley, Geoffrey Rush, and Jonathan Pryce
director: Gore Verbinski
138 minutes (12) 2003
Walt Disney VHS retail
Also available to buy on DVD
reviewed by Debbie Moon
The Caribbean colony of Port Royal; Will Turner (Orlando Bloom), an apprentice sword-smith, is in love with Elizabeth (Keira Knightley), daughter of the affable Governor. When the crew of the legendary pirate ship The Black Pearl attack the colony and kidnap Elizabeth, he’s determined to save her. That means springing from jail the only man who can find the Pearl – her former captain, sozzled reprobate Jack Sparrow. As the only survivor of a pirate attack many years before, Will isn’t exactly fond of buccaneers; but what choice does he have? Soon he’s up to his neck in crime, adventure, and betrayal – and unravelling the secrets of his own past,
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which connect him to the Pearl and the monstrous Captain Barbossa in ways he’d never imagined possible…
A Disney film with a 12 certificate, based on a theme park ride, and co-produced by action supremo Jerry Bruckheimer? Whatever is the world coming to? Well, if it produces more films like this, I won’t be complaining. Pirates Of The Caribbean certainly isn’t perfect: there’s that ridiculously long title for a start, along with a string of historical inaccuracies and plot-holes (erm, why Bootstrap Bill’s blood, exactly?), and a tagged-on solution to the love triangle that won’t convince anyone over the age of ten. But when a film is this infectiously good-humoured and stuffed with old-fashioned swashbuckling fun, it’s almost impossible to dislike.
Will may be the romantic hero, but the heart of the film is a scene stealing turn from Johnny Depp as perma-stoned egotist Sparrow, the worst pirate in the Caribbean. In fact, Depp’s performance is a real triumph, delicately nuanced and endearingly vulnerable. Bloom and Knightley make the best of their more conventional characters: Bloom in particular excels in his early scenes, including a wisecracking swordfight with Depp that comes close to the dizzy heights of adventure classic The Princess Bride. Geoffrey Rush brings surprising depth to panto villain Barbossa, and a largely British cast have great fun with the childish humour (look out for Jonathan Pryce’s hysterical battle with a severed hand).
Pirates may be all froth, excitement and silliness, but compared to the slick and soulless sequels that filled cinemas this summer, it’s a real treat. Switch off your critical faculties, sit back, and enjoy the kind of movie you thought they didn’t make any more.