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Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp), a young pirate left abandoned on an island by his First Mate Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush), escapes and heads for the Caribbean’s English stronghold, Port Royal, to continue his pirating. But Barbossa, in the ship stolen from Jack, the infamous, Black Pearl, attacks the port to ransack it with his mutinous crew, and in the process, kidnaps the Governor’s (Jonathan Pryce) beautiful daughter, Elizabeth Swann (Keira Knightley). Elizabeth’s childhood friend, the young blacksmith Will Turner (Orlando Bloom), joins forces with Jack to commandeer the fastest ship in the British fleet, the H.M.S. Interceptor, in a gallant attempt to rescue her and recapture the Black Pearl. Unbeknownst to Will, a cursed treasure has doomed Barbossa and his crew to live forever as the undead, the moonlight eerily transforming them into living skeletons. The curse can be broken only if the plundered treasure is restored in total and a blood debt repaid. 

Review by Louise Keller:
It’s just a lot of fun. Buckle up for a swashbuckling adventure on the high seas, with pirates, treasure, a curse and a damsel in distress. Of course, making a film that tilts its pirate hat in tribute to the famous Disneyland ride is in itself a pretty good idea. And the film itself is like a ride. Take the writers from Shrek, the visual effect team from ILM, add a top cast and a big budget – the result is pure escapist entertainment. Admittedly, the running time of 143 minutes is far too long, and there’s an overload of repetitive swordplay. But that aside, the best part about Pirates of the Caribbean is the fact that it never takes itself seriously. 

How much you enjoy the trip may depend on your take of Johnny Depp’s characterisation of Captain Jack Sparrow with his slight slur and almost effeminate body language as his hands do the talking. Depp is highly adventurous in his creation of this bizarre, theatrical pirate with heavy kohl eyeliner, long hair ornamented by trinkets and four gold teeth of different carats. (By very little stretch of the imagination, Depp could well be ready to party or jam with the nearest rockband.) It’s a risky characterisation and if you don’t buy it, the whole film may seemingly slide to the bottom of the ocean. Geoffrey Rush makes a splendid Captain Barbossa – a villain we love to hate - with facial scars and a cute little monkey on his shoulder. He is a creepy figure indeed, and his ghostly transformation into a skeleton is quite chilling. Yet we feel sorry for him, as he yearns to regain his sensory powers. Depp and Rush work well together, and playful sparks are a big part of the scenes between Sparrow and Barbossa. But there are sparks of another kind between Keira Knightley’s Elizabeth and Orlando Bloom’s Will. Impressive in Bend it Like Beckham, 18 year old Knightley (reminiscent of Natalie Portman), is lovely in the role, showing spirit and screen presence. Bloom is an ideal leading man, bringing a convincing complexity and sincerity to what could have been a pretty ‘straight’ role. 

The digital magic that transforms men to skeletal proportions is breathtaking and I like the way some remnants of clothing or distinguishing features always remain – be it a wonky eye, an earring, a hat or a coat. Length aside, the filmmakers have judged the tone well with a rollicking score, a lively mix of action and fun all stirred together in a magical pot. After all, this is a pirate movie. The moon is full, the mist is heavy and there’s a curse to counter. 

Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Much money and tons of talent have been burned in bringing to the screen a tale of pirates that confuses violent fighting with the swashbuckler that it seems wanting to be. The first alert was the M rating, restricting under 15s, which seems totally at odds with the film’s target market. It certainly doesn’t have much appeal for over 15s. 

The litany of its sins begins with a silly script, and is followed by a silly, high risk performance by Johnny Depp that doesn’t work (it hurts me to say it), interminable fight scenes and a dithering plot with few redeeming features. Such as they are, glorified by sublime settings, include the comic elements which fire a few times through the lengthy proceedings, and excellent production design. The music is pretty good, too, although it seems a little unsuitable with its earnestness. Geoffrey Rush makes a good fist of a poor script but his character is written as flat as cardboard. 

And the confused tone throughout makes a mockery of it as a family film. The violence is the worst offence, but expecting kids to sit through a film this long (if they were allowed in) is sheer optimism and it isn’t based on anything I could see in the film. The consumer advisory says ‘supernatural themes’ but this is a haughty phrase for what is a mumbo jumbo of undead ideas, clumsily executed. It’s just not good enough to be fun. Everyone, from the talented writers, the director and the cast have done better work. I look forward to seeing their best work again in the future.

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CAST: Johnny Depp, Geoffrey Rush, Orlando Bloom, Keira Knightley, Jack Davenport, Jonathan Pryce, Lee Arenberg, Mackenzie Crook

PRODUCER: Jerry Bruckheimer

DIRECTOR: Gore Verbinski

SCRIPT: Ted Elliott, Terry Rossio (Ted Elliott, Terry Rossio, Stuart Beattie, Jay Wolpert - screen story)


EDITOR: Stephen E. Rivkin, Arthur Schmidt, Craig

MUSIC: Klaus Badelt


RUNNING TIME: 143 minutes


AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: September 11, 2003

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