Film Friday: ‘Pirates Of The Caribbean: On Stranger Tides’ and ‘Last Night’

by W. Andrew Powell

Johnny Depp and Penélope Cruz in Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides

Johnny Depp and Penélope Cruz in Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides

New arrivals in theatres this weekend include: Pirates Of The Caribbean: On Stranger Tides starring Johnny Depp as the one and only Captain Jack Sparrow, hunting this time for the fountain of youth; and the drama Last Night, starring Keira Knightley and Sam Worthington.

Pirates Of The Caribbean: On Stranger Tides [3D and IMAX 3D]
Starring: Johnny Depp, Penélope Cruz, Geoffrey Rush, Ian McShane, Kevin McNally, Sam Claflin, Astrid Berges-Frisbey, Stephen Graham, Keith Richards
Director: Rob Marshall

Rated: 8/10

Adventure returns to the high seas as Johnny Depp steps back into the shoes of Captain Jack Sparrow–the role that made him a mega, mega star–for the fourth instalment of Jerry Bruckheimer’s wildly successful Pirates Of The Caribbean franchise.

The world has changed for Jack since the last time we met him. Gone are almost all of the supporting cast members from the first three films, as is the franchise’s original director, who has been replaced by Chicago helmer Rob Marshall.

On Stranger Tides has Jack Sparrow working against the British Crown to save Mr. Gibbs, played by Kevin McNally, one of the few returning actors, who has somehow managed to get himself arrested for charges against Jack. That leads, almost immediately, to an encounter with the King of England, who wants to send an expedition to find the fountain of youth before the Spanish can find the fabled magical waters. The catch is that Jack has the map they need and the captain of the English ship is Barbossa, played once more by Geoffrey Rush, who now sports a wooden leg and has somehow lost the Black Pearl, which clearly enrages Jack.

Escaping from the King, Jack stumbles into his father and his long lost lover, Angelica, played by Penélope Cruz, who both have some knowledge of the fountain of youth. The difference is that Angelica has put together a ship and plans to find the fountain before anyone else, and she wants Jack to join her.

What follows is a journey across the seas with the English, the Spanish, and Blackbeard’s own Queen Anne’s Revenge hurtling toward their destinies. On the way they will fight zombies, mermaids, and each other to get a chance to sip the fountain’s waters, but the prize will not come without some cost.

Featuring a menacing performance by Ian McShane as Blackbeard, On Stranger Tides is a marvellous summer adventure that has Depp springing back into form as one of the most iconic characters of the last few decades. This is an adventure worthy of the name Captain Jack Sparrow, and the action is tight, fun, and funny.

Best of all, Depp and Cruz make for a good pair on screen, and while there are only a few sparks, it’s enough to make their story believable.

The film is, however, somewhat flawed. While Gore Verbinski had a terrible script to work with in the third film, he was a fantastic director and he brought a lot of energy and stylish humour to the franchise. By comparison, Marshall lacks an edge, and seems to have fumbled some of the film’s tell-tale vigour. The scenes move by quickly, but it’s not quite as effortless as before, and you can feel the absence of some of the stronger characters.

The script is also just shy of magical, and it feels like it doesn’t always run smoothly from setup to execution between the early acts and the payoff.

I would also be remiss if I didn’t reveal that Depp is great once more as Jack Sparrow, but something is definitely missing compared to the earlier films.

It’s also hard to ignore the fact that the 3D for On Stranger Tides is mediocre at best, and murky as a bog. For a dark film like this, something needed to be done to brighten up the 3D, but as it stands this is a film that you might enjoy more without the glasses (although there is something to be said for IMAX 3D, which is superior to the 3D I saw on a standard screen).

Overall, while I do have a number of gripes with the film, Pirates Of The Caribbean: On Stranger Tides is fun and lively, and I still loved it. The movie sprints through 2 hours of spectacular special effects, and will leave you hoping for yet another sequel, just preferably with a little more wit and creative energy the next time out.

Last Night
Starring: Keira Knightley, Sam Worthington, Guillaume Canet, Eva Mendes, Daniel Eric Gold, Scott Adsit, Griffin Dunne
Director: Massy Tadjedin

The only other new film opening this weekend is Massy Tadjedin’s Last Night, starring Keira Knightley and Sam Worthington.

The duo play Joanna and Michael, a happy couple who have to face temptation when a work trip leaves Michael alone with his beautiful co-worker Laura, played by Eva Mendes, while Joanna meets her old flame Alex, played by Guillaume Canet.

Will they surrender to their temptations, or survive their encounters emotionally intact?

While the concept could be intriguing, and offers a lot of emotional range for the cast, the film and its first-time director have not earned positive reviews from critics.

Kyle Smith of the New York Post wrote in his review, “Suspenseful though it is, the movie is quiet to the point of being sleepy, and Worthington is simply not working out as a screen star.”

While Wesley Morris of the Boston Globe commented of the film, “It’s the sort of movie that thinks cutting between two different stories makes it art. Usually, it feels like an exercise in art. There’s a lot of calisthenics but very little beauty or truth or whatever it is the movie is going for.”

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