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Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl

Year: 2003
Production Co: Jerry Bruckheimer Films
Studio: Disney
Director: Gore Verbinski
Producer: Jerry Bruckheimer
Writer: Ted Elliott/Terry Rossio/Stuart Beattie/Jay Wolpert
Cast: Johnny Depp, Orlando Bloom, Keira Knightley, Geoffrey Rush, Jonathan Pryce
For a long time now, pirates have been box office poison for film studios. But they keep popping up in movieland, director after director desperate to cash in on the Hollywood mystique that once proved a license to print box office money in the hands of the golden age swashbucklers like Errol Flynn.

If any collection of talent could possibly make it work, it seems fate has landed them together. Take the iconic theme park ride. Add the marketing power of one of the biggest film studios (and owner of said theme park) on earth in Disney. Take the sheer clout of one of the most influential producers on earth (who, when he says 'give me an ocean battle' sends ripples of spending across Hollywood) in Jerry Bruckheimer.

Take two very photogenic movie babes in Keira Knightley (Bend it Like Beckham) and Orlando Bloom. Take an actor whose choice of roles and body of work continually confounds and inspires his fans in Johnny Depp. Add Hollywood's least predictable director in Gore Verbinski, after projects as wildly varied as Mousehunt, The Mexican and The Ring.

Put them all together, and you've not only got the best pirate film of the last decade, but one of the best film spectaculars of the year.

With a fantastic script to work with, what looks like hundreds of millions of dollars of Bruckheimer's money behind him and brilliance is production design and costumes, Verbinski recaptures the buccaneer spirit of old. Not a single scurvy sea dog is forgotten, while CG effects and a very tongue in cheek approach (in the mood as well as the dialogue) add a fresh perspective to themes we all know.

The Black Pearl is a mythological pirate ship, shrouded in mystery and not even proven real. When it attacks a port city in the new world in search of a lost medallion of Aztec gold, the heroes are drawn into the quest; Jack Sparrow (Depp) a self styled pirate captain with more devilish charm and bluster than fearsome intent; the Governor's beautiful daughter Elizabeth Swann (Knightley), who's had the medallion since girlhood; and blacksmith's apprentice Will Turner (Bloom), whose identity makes him more than he appears.

Led by the loathsome Captain Barbossa (Rush), the crew of Black Pearl suffer a terrible curse to walk to earth undead until all the medallions are recovered – and Elizabeth wears the last one.

The race – not to mention the fantastic CG effects, sheer scope of the production and laughs (mostly at the hand of the scene-stealing Sparrow) – is on, and the audience is the big winner as pieces of eight, talking parrots and the Jolly Roger abound.

Depp and Rush savour every moment so fully it's hard not to get caught up in it with them, but Bloom and Knightley take themselves far too seriously.

The officially named Pirates of the Caribbean; Curse of the Black Pearl isn't perfect. The romantic subplot's corny and the dialogue occasionally slips, as if the writers couldn't think of anything better to say – but Depp as Jack Sparrow saves the day every time, steals every scene and gets all the best lines.

Asked why he took such an overtly commercial role after such an intriguing body of work outside mainstream cinema, Depp reportedly said that with two daughters, he's been playing pirates for years – now he could do it for real.

That embodies the whole spirit of the movie. He did it purely for the fun of it. You should too.

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