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Film review – Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales sees Johnny Depp on song in sparkling adventure

Fifth Pirates instalment is a return to form, thanks to fresh directors and new co-stars Brenton Thwaites, Kaya Scodelario and the terrifying Javier Bardem, and features some truly stand-out set pieces

PUBLISHED : Monday, 22 May, 2017, 9:02pm
UPDATED : Monday, 22 May, 2017, 9:02pm

3.5/5 stars

Since 2003’s The Curse of The Black Pearl , the Pirates films have become progressively more unwieldy. Yet with incoming co-directors, fresh faces, surprise cameos and a rollicking script, this fifth instalment sparkles like pirate booty.

A story of fathers and their offspring, Dead Men Tell No Tales begins by introducing young Henry (Brenton Thwaites), son to Will Turner (Orlando Bloom) – who has been condemned to live beneath the waves.

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Determined to break this curse, Henry must seek out the Trident of Poseidon. The quest soon sees him paired with Johnny Depp’s hapless drunken fop, Captain Jack Sparrow, now in charge of a clapped-out ship – the aptly named Dying Gull – and a mutinous crew. Along for the ride is Carina (Kaya Scodelario), an orphaned astronomer who comes to discover whether the “myths of the sea are real”.

With nothing ever simple on the high seas, the pursuit of the trident is hampered by a ghostly crew, led by the ruthless, revenge-seeking phantom Captain Salazar (Javier Bardem), fresh from escaping the notorious Devil’s Triangle. Sparrow’s old rival pirate Hector Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush) also finds himself roped in with a surprisingly emotional arc penned by screenwriter Jeff Nathanson.

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Directed with gusto by Norwegian pair Espen Sandberg and Joachim Rønning, who previously made the rather more sedate aquatic adventure Kon-Tiki, the film boasts a number of stand-out set pieces: a bank robbery which involves stealing the bank itself; ghost sharks (particularly effective in 3D); a double execution scene, which ends with Jack being swung around a moving guillotine; and a Moses-like parting of the sea.

Depp is on song here with plenty of cheeky one-liners (Carina’s admission that she’s a horologist gets a lot of mileage), but he never overshadows the others. Thwaites and Scodelario make a cute pairing and Bardem – if not quite as effective as he was in Skyfall – is an admirable villain. With two nice surprise guests, including one to rival Keith Richards’ franchise turn, this is a rum old adventure.

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Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales opens on May 25

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