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"Pirates of the Caribbean... "

IF YOU are in any mood to go back in time — to the days of swashbuckling pirates, romance of the high seas, hidden treasures, plank walking, parrots and sails on ships, then perhaps this Disney venture released by Columbia Pictures, is a film you will enjoy. And in recent times, what with the high tech gizmos of Star Wars and Matrix, this is old-fashioned and a trip in nostalgia.

Loosely based on the game park at Disney, it has been adapted to the screen. Gore with his fascination of the macabre, has come up with some bizarre ideas of undead woven into a romanticised tale of pirates in the Caribbean.

Set in the 17th Century, this is about the escapades of a roguish, handsome, smooth talking, yet bumbling pirate, Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) going after a ship he was done out of by Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush) and his motley crowd of dead, but not really dead crew. By this it means that they can function as people, but cannot feel anything that is either earthly or normal. And on full moon days when the moonlight falls on them, they become skeletons.

It is bizarre — but then what's a bit of the outlandish in a story that is equally out of today's world? Captain Barbossa not only steals the Black Pearl, but also attacks the town of Royal Port and kidnaps the Governor's daughter, Elisabeth (Keira Knightley). And to get his ship back, Jack is forced to team up with Elisabeth's childhood friend, Will Turner (Orlando Bloom), a skilled sword maker in love with Elisabeth. They go on the H.M.S. Interceptor and gallantly try and rescue Elisabeth and also capture Black Pearl. The duo and their pathetic crew are pursued by Elisabeth's betrothed, the debonair and ambitious Commodore Norrington (Jack Davenport) aboard the H.M.S. Dauntless.

Will of course does not know much of his past and history — there is a curse — a treasure that has doomed Barbossa and his men to a life without soul — and they will live forever without being really dead. The curse can be broken only if the last piece of gold in the casket is restored along with the blood of the person who took it in the first place. Which happens to be Turners father — a pirate himself. Now that is a lot for Tuner to come to terms with. In addition to the wily Jack, who he does not really trust.

Johnny Depp as Jack with all his beads and kohl-lined eyes, is unsteadily charming. Sometimes very attractive, sometimes a real bore. And he has some really mad looking co-stars like Geoffrey and co, who sport rotting teeth, unkempt hair and some truly evil looking false eyes. They morph into anything, anytime and fight literally to the bone. Keira who plays such a different role in Bend It Like Beckham, looks utterly charming — as the tomboy in upper class clothes, she does well. And Orlando as Turner is like what old tales reek of — lots of charm. Whether we are convinced of the story or not, the artists are in sync with the proceedings.

The project displays every bit of the huge budget on visual effects, sets and locations. The sweeping seas, craggy harbours, close ups of the galleys, dank jails, deserted islands, the cave with the treasures of the pirates — the viewers are treated to everything. Ships are stolen and they come side to side and fights ensue with cheer and enthusiasm.

The director treats such things in such a way that visual effects blend seamlessly into the narration.

The Black Pearl is almost always in a cloud — for that dreaded effect and its moth-eaten sails in black provide the sense of doom. Most times the dialogues are drowned by the sounds of gunfire and clash of swords, but then it is mostly action that too long-winded towards the end — that one has to be satisfied with.

CHITRA MAHESH

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