Pirates Of The Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales

The Pirates Of The Caribbean franchise has been a long and wild rollercoaster ride so far, with each new addition mining for fresh oceanic mythology to throw at Jack Sparrow & Co., as well as tossing in as much commotion, cameos and FX wizardry that Hollywood will cash out to a lucrative legacy like this. So the anthology arrives at it’s fifth excursion, titled Dead Men Tell No Tales, and it’s nice to know these films still have some wind in their sails, because this is actually a fairly fun and engaging entry, if a little more grey and somber than some of the livelier chapters. The characters have been through enough at this point it’s a wonder they still have their sanity and good looks, although a few have disappeared or fallen on hard times (Orlando Bloom’s Will Turner finds himself in a weird, prophetic predicament here). Jack Sparrow seems to soldier on undaunted though, perma-sloshed on The Caribbean’s finest rum, which is always in shortage, and as much a trouble magnet as ever, chased here by ghosts from his past, and I mean that quite literally. Jack himself is stuck in a bit of a drudge when we reconnect with him, cooling his heels in jail after a spectacularly botched bank robbery with his old crew (ever hilarious Gibbs present and accounted for). He’s shanghaied into another series of hijinks by a mysterious young lad (Brenton Thwaites) who’s searching for something, while the ghostly crew of a marooned Spaniard ship is searching for Jack. It’s captain, a spooky spectre called Salazar (Javier Bardem) has a personal bone to pick with out hero, dating back to the rascal’s teenage years. Played with sallow devilish glee by Bardem, Salazar is actually probably the scariest villain in the series so far, which isn’t saying much but it’s nice to get a little spine tingle from the combo of his work and the eerie special effects. Geoffrey Rush’s seemingly immortal Captain Barbossa returns again too, and sort of gets more and more garishly ridiculous with each incarnation, but Rush somehow manages to sell it, the champ. There’s a female heroine too (Kaya Scodelario) whose origins are also shrouded, the shrewd military prick that always shows up, played here by Lord Of The Ring’s David Wenham, and a sly cameo from Paul McCartney as another far flung relative of Jack’s. While nothing will ever top Curse Of The Black Pearl, this one both tones down the bloat of Dead Man’s Chest and reigns in the mania the nearly derailed At World’s End, as well as giving some life where blandness crept into On Stranger Tides. It’s not the best of the series, or even silver medal, but does the trick nicely and tries a few neat variations on the formula.

-Nate Hill

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