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Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales - Film Review

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by Kiesten McCauley (subscribe)
My early career was in teaching, writing, producing and directing for theatre, comedy and impro shows. Now I'm a professional creative person. Mostly high-end branding, strategy, writing, editing and digital content creation.
Published May 22nd 2017
Swashbuckling, Slapstick and Seafaring
pirates, caribbean, dead, men, tell, no, tales, disney
Banners Featuring Stars (L-R) Geoffrey Rush, Johnny Depp and Javier Bardem at the Queensland Premiere of Pirates of the Caribbean Dead Men Tell No Tales

Disney's Pirates of the Caribbean franchise is back in cinemas this week with its fifth incarnation Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales. It might be easy to write this one off before giving it a chance in the cinema. After all, not all of the previous films have been as thrilling as the first instalment in the series. Fortunately for fans of swashbuckling adventure, the latest offering is a welcome return to form.

The movie is well paced, drawing you into the world very quickly and keeping you on the edge of your seat for the rest of the ride. It's packed with lots of laughs for all ages, with plenty of naughty jokes for the grown-ups that will safely fly over the kids' heads. There are some hilarious moments of physical and slapstick comedy too. Plus, there are some lively little puns for those who like their gags to be linguistic.

Johnny Depp is charming and very sexy, especially in the flashback which shows part of his character Captain Jack Sparrow's origin story. That part of the story reveals how he became a captain and tied up some lovely threads from previous films. In fact, that is one thing the screenwriters have done very well. They include references to and beloved characters from the previous four offerings. These in-jokes are crafted in such a way as to not prevent anyone who's never seen the other four films from following the narrative.

Let's take a moment to thank Disney for not putting all the good jokes in the trailer. Kudos Disney. Thanks for not spoiling all the laughs.

An actor friend and I were recently talking about how vital a good script is to a production's success. It feels like Disney has done the groundwork and made sure they had a solid script on which to build everything else in Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales. It was worth it. Alongside those aforementioned beloved returning characters, they've introduced some wonderful new ones.

Australian Brenton Thwaites' character of Henry Turner is well penned. He could have just as easily been a soppy, earnest and annoying hero. Instead, he's got heart and soul but isn't pathetic. Kaya Scodelario as the heroine Carina Smyth might have been played in an overbearing and pushy way. What we find, however, is an internal strength and humour which would have been lacking in lesser films. Golshifteh Farahani's character of Shansa, in the hands of a bad screenwriter, could have been two-dimensional, but instead she's powerful and chilling.

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Red Carpet Chaos at the Queensland Premiere.

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Photographers! Journalists! Actors! Being in a Red Carpet Media Scrum is Intense!

pirates, caribbean, movie, premiere, queensland, dead, men, tell, no, tales
The View When Walking the Red Carpet and Facing the Media.

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales' story is full of fantasy, the supernatural and superstition, but that's not what they story is about. Yes, there are robberies and adventures, thrilling escapes and plenty of moments of outwitting the opponents. The movie's real story is that of fathers and their children. Henry Turner is searching for a way to free his father from the curse which has him forever sailing the Flying Dutchman. Carina Smyth, having been orphaned at a young age, is completing a search that was started by a father she never knew.

The three major male leads: Johnny Depp (Captain Jack Sparrow), Javier Bardem (Captain Salazar) and Geoffrey Rush (Captain Hector Barbossa) are flawless. It's a pleasure to see these masters of their craft in action. Depp has brilliant comic timing, Bardem is horrifying and Barbossa wonderfully in touch with how to say it all with just a look.

pirates, caribbean, movie, premiere, queensland, dead, men, tell, no, tales
This Movie Poster on the way into the Theatre was Significantly Taller than me (and More Breathtaking).

While directors Joachim Rønning and Espen Sandberg have gotten lovely nuanced and emotionally real performances out of the actors, they really knew how to direct their cinematographer! The beautiful Queensland scenery shines through in the blue skies of the Gold Coast, the lush green of Mount Tambourine and the white sandy Whitsundays beaches.

We all love a well-written script, gorgeous scenery and solid acting. The Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales script, acting and directing is a beautiful framework on which to hang the visual artistry. The costumes are intricate and perfectly designed. There's an outstanding level of detail in the clothing worn even by non-speaking extras. Sets are also a feast for the eyes. So many of the sets are built on a grand scale and it pays off. The digital visual effects were clearly the work of hundreds of artists for hundreds of hours (special mention to the hair of Captain Salazar).

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales has heart but it's not too saccharin. It finds so many ways to be funny and the preview hasn't spoiled all the good jokes. There's a hint of a franchise formula but it's not going through the motions and nor is it 100% predictable. It's just more like a return to that rollicking fun form set by the first movie.

There are some genuinely scary moments and this is not a movie for little kids. The film-makers definitely got me with at least one jump scare from the deadly ghost sailors. Also, (minor spoiler alert, though if you look at the preview or movie posters, not really) if sharks aren't scary enough, how about undead monster sharks? That scary enough for you?

Keep your eyes peeled for a really amusing cameo (Uncle Jack is a highlight, especially for the Baby Boomers) and a LOT of familiar Australian actors and actresses. If you're up for reading a list of over 2,500 people who worked on the film, stick around through the credits. You'll be rewarded with a post-credits teaser for the next movie in the franchise. Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales is packed with entertainment, adventure, humour and heart. It's in cinemas from May 24th, so check your local guides for session times and details.
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Why? It's superb swashbuckling fun made here in Australia
Where: Cinemas all Around Australia, Check Your Local Guides for Details
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