Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales

“I’m not looking for trouble.
What a horrible way to live.”

This fifth installment in the Pirates of the Caribbean film series, originally adapted from the Walt Disney theme park attraction, has numerous returning characters especially two characters who did not appear the previous installment subtitled On Stranger Tides.

This fantasy swashbuckler also includes a vital piece missing from the previous adventure – a full and meaningful flashback sequence that further develops the eccentric Captain Jack Sparrow, played again by Johnny Depp, who uses his wits to save himself several times throughout the plot though luck is common denominator too.

Anthony De La Torre portrays a younger Jack Sparrow in his feature film debut during this sequence. This Bowling Green, Ohio native easily handles several physical demands of the role though his voice was seemingly enhanced to closely match Depp’s.

Depp does his share of stunt work too and really embraces Jack’s initial downturn, especially after trying to negotiate the top of a gate. Depp’s comic timing and common sense dialogue delivery anchors the basic, human elements in the plot among the fantastical quests for the Trident of Poseidon and other elements. Jack often says what the audience is thinking and is usually just along for the ride.

Geoffrey Rush again provides plenty of pirate bravado and appeal as Captain Hector Barbossa who still commands presence while showing his mean side. His current status represents the best and most essential continuity from the previous installment while providing some great revelations and surprises.

Javier Bardem (Skyfall, No Country For Old Men) plays Captain Armando Salazar, a pirate hunter for the Spanish Navy whose beginning physical state requires some stellar special effects. The filmmaking crew pulls them off, especially the flow of his hair, which creates a wicked effect along with the chilling sounds similar to wheezing or gasping for air. This film’s subtitle echoes his ruthless drive. Bardem’s dialogue cadence supplies endless appeal though some of his lines in the middle of the film are hard to understand.

Notable new characters in this film series include Brenton Thwaites as Henry Turner and Kaya Scodelario as Carina Smyth. Both command great presence and hold their own among great performances from Depp, Rush and Bardem.

Thwaites (The Giver, Maleficent) provides charm and likeness to Henry’s parents. His charisma, decision making and physical presence quickly impress audiences so his abilities are not in question and consequently slow down the plot.

Scodelario (The Maze Runner film series) plays this capable “woman of science” well as her past becomes paramount in the plot development. Societal rules and taboos about female status in this 1700s time period factor into her decision making and also create opportunities for entertaining sidebars.

Henry stands up for Carina as their relationship grows. “You don’t have to understand her. Just believe her,” he says. Henry only reveals his true naivety when it concerns Carina.

Kevin McNally returns for the fifth time as Captain Jack’s first mate Joshamee Gibbs while Martin Klebba also returns as Jack’s crew mate Marty after no appearance in the previous installment.

Angus Barnett and Giles New also make welcome returns as Mullory and Murtogg respectively. This memorable duo now serves Barbossa’s crew after starting as the British guards trying to keep Jack off the ships in the beginning Curse of the Black Pearl installment.

Sir Paul McCartney has small, yet packed role as Jack Sparrow’s uncle filled with fun, advice and even a joke. Golshifteh Farahani (Paterson, Body of Lies) undergoes a radical physical change as Shansa, a local witch who provides special guidance for key characters.

Co-directors Joachim Ronning and Espen Sandberg expedite the story well by jettisoning unnecessary logistics and travel shots and respect the audience’s intelligence. Their techniques include effective and sparingly used overhead shots and key repeating visuals, especially during the film’s climax sequence.

Other techniques like images seen in reflecting water foreshadow events and inventive stuntwork during a public hanging sequence, which besides the ending, is the best action in this film. Some common sense logic is missing here (just cutting the noose would have logically expedited the resolution), but wouldn’t have been as much fun.

It’s a great combination that ramps up the realism since the visual events of Salazar and his crew look so convincing. They achieve what any filmmaking cast and crew would want – an escapist experience that audiences can completely lose themselves in.

Jeff Nathanson (Catch Me If You Can) helms the screenplay while Terry Rossio (Shrek) co-writes the story with Nathanson sans his usual partner and frequent Pirates collaborator Ted Elliott. The rapid-fire jokes, clever wordplay and splashy comebacks (mostly Jack and between Henry and Carina) enhance the character dialogue. Follow-ups to references like “horology” are painfully predictable and a bit tiresome after repetition while other lines are a bit more cerebral and satisfying on a different level.

Audiences can easily predict the plot when remembering key elements with special conditions, which are not surprisingly repeated later. It’s a fine plot and the shortest in this film series sailing in at two hours and 9 minutes.

Filming locations include Australia and Canada and the majestic ocean sequences amaze, especially at the end. The special settings like the Devil’s Triangle (a.k.a. Uncharted Waters) all have their purpose while filmmakers also add the special touches like the ships’ names and other moments where audiences must look carefully to catch some rewarding references.

The thundering sound from Skywalker Studios is outstanding and the epic visual effects will likely gain future Oscar nominations. Cinematographer Paul Cameron (Man on Fire, TV’s Westworld) handles the visuals well as audiences will definitely feel they’re still on the high seas for a while after leaving the theater.

Goeff Zanelli (TV’s Into the West) takes the reigns for composer (and The Pacific collaborator) Hans Zimmer on the musical score, which is based on many excellent themes from the first film’s memorable score by Klaus Badelt. Audiences hear that familiar theme music early and often.

The Tides installment was originally conceived as the beginning of a new film trilogy so don’t be surprised when the sixth installment is officially announced. This popular film series will surely pass the 4 billion box office total with this fifth installment that comes highly recommended (***1/2 out of four stars) and is rated PG-13 for sequences of adventure violence, and some suggestive content.

After a six-year absence Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales revives this film series and is only bested by the initial installment. Be sure to after the ending credits for a special bonus sequence. Also playing in Disney Digital 3-D, RealD 3D and IMAX 3D theaters.

Copyright © Michael Siebenaler

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