At the centre of the story is Elizabeth Swann (Knightley), daughter of the English governor (Pryce) of an 18th century colonial port. While she harbours love for the orphan (Bloom) she helped rescue from the sea as a young girl, she's expected to marry the straight-arrow local commodore Norrington (Davenport). Then the notorious pirate Jack Sparrow (Depp) comes to town, swiftly followed by Captain Barbossa (Rush) and his literally skeleton crew on the ship The Black Pearl, which carries a curse that leaves them unable to really live or die until a stolen treasure is restored (or something like that). And everyone is off on an adventure!
Produced on an epic scale, the film bristles with life, dragging us into the period with a terrific attention to detail, superior effects work and a solid script from the writers of Shrek that's deeply witty without ever resorting to cheap pop-culture postmodernism. And the cast take off with it, propelled by director Verbinski into heights of action, comedy, romance and even some self-discovery. Bloom gets one of his biggest roles to date and does some very nice things with the physical action, the jokey shipmate camaraderie and the romance with Knightley, who holds her own nicely. Rush chews up the scenery shamelessly, and actually gives his sharpest performance in ages. But Depp walks off with the film; his Captain Jack is a memorable bundle of slurred speech, full-body tics and camp mannerisms that are absolutely hilarious. Around them are extremely well-drawn supporting characters who are scary, cunning and very funny. And most of them turn stunningly into skeletons in the full moon, often in mid-battle. This is a terrifically wild and woolly adventure yarn. Miss it at your peril.
dir Gore Verbinski
scr Ted Elliott, Terry Rossio
with Johnny Depp, Orlando Bloom, Keira Knightley, Geoffrey Rush, Jack Davenport, Jonathan Pryce, Lee Arenberg, Mackenzie Crook, Damian O'Hare, David Bailie Kevin R McNally, Zoe Saldana
release USA 9.Jul.03; UK 8.Aug.03
03/US Disney 2h13
Avast ye maties: Bloom and Depp.
M Moses, Weymouth MA: "One of the best movies I have seen in a long time! Definitely the best movie so far this year. I'm already planning on seeing it again, and I haven't done that in many years. This movie had me entertained with its action and wit from beginning to end. Depp gives a memorable performance as Captain Jack Sparrow, and I hope there's a sequel because I'd love to see that character in another romp. A must-see!" 14.Jul.03
Laurie T, Minneapolis: "This looked like a fun movie - I read the plot description and liked the whole idea even more: Pirates on a ghost ship who turn into skeletons in moonlight and can't die? I definitely am thinking of actually seeing it again. Johnny Depp is totally awesome - and the scary parts became laugh lines. Just when you got scared, he made you laugh. All I can say is if you only see one movie this year - make this one it. And please make a sequel - pretty please? " 17.Jul.03
Kathy M, Los Angeles: "Definitely enjoyed it! I thought the Black Pearl crew effects were incredible and I personally always seem to like Johnny Depp. We also saw a preview for Disney's next ride related movie: The Haunted Mansion with Eddie Murphy. Anything for a buck, eh? After the movie, we thought up an idea for another one: It's a Small World. Do you think it has any potential?" 26.Jul.03
Nik Shah, London: "I am glad I was forced out of my indie, chin-stroking ways for this one. It all looked a bit standard for the first half-hour or so and then in walked Johnny Depp and I didn't stop laughing after that. The romance between Knightley and Bloom is a bit flat - all thousand-yard stares beyond the camera, but that simply doesn't matter because Depp will come in and rescue the scene with his cabaret pirate and we're all happy again. Will definitely see this one again." 19.Sep.03
Dave Haviland, London: "I wasn't excited about the prospect of a film based on a Disney theme park ride from schlock king Jerry Bruckheimer. Luckily, my expectations were completely confounded. Despite its origins, the plot is by turns exciting and surprising. Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightly lead a strong British contingent including Jack Davenport, Jonathan Pryce, and The Office's Mackenzie Crook, but Johnny Depp is the undisputed star in a hilariously camp performance that is more Keith Richards than Errol Flynn. When Davenport's stuck-up Commodore tells him 'You are without a doubt the worst pirate I have ever heard of', Sparrow slurs insouciantly 'Ah, but you have heard of me!' Some of the action is breathtakingly exciting, particularly one tremendous swordfight between Depp and Bloom, and the CGI skeletons are truly disturbing. The film is full of great comic moments, but also manages to be exciting, scary and even moving. From this hybrid premise you feel many directors would have delivered a half-baked pastiche but Gore Verbinski has come up with a genuine swashbuckling epic loaded with drama, comedy, and romance." (30.Dec.03)