Pirates of the Caribbean: Salazar’s Revenge (2017)

The Curse of the Black Pearl was an incredible experience for me when I was a little girl – it was awe-inspiring, frightening at times and unlike anything I’d seen in film before (I was 9 and still am terrified by the sea). Never before had pirates been attempted so ambitiously and brilliantly, with a strong story combining myth and legend, and some fantastic protagonists. Pirates of the Caribbean: Salazar’s Revenge (or Dead Men Tell No Tales as it’s known to the rest of the world) slots exactly in the middle of the five films for me. It’s not the worst, but not nearly the best.

A crew of deadly ghost sailors, led by Captain Salazar (Javier Bardem), escape from the Devil’s Triangle and hunt their old nemesis Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp). Jack is down-on-his-luck, and his only hope of survival lies in seeking out the legendary Trident of Poseidon, known to break all curses of the sea. To find it, he must forge an uneasy alliance with brilliant astronomer Carina Smyth (Kaya Scodelario) and headstrong young man Henry Turner (Brenton Thwaites), who needs the Trident to free his father from his curse.


Casting aside how good or bad they may be, what I love about all of these movies is that they all intertwine actual maritime myth and legend; Cortez’s gold, Davy Jones and the Flying Dutchman, Blackbeard etc. I am yet to know whether Salazar himself is actually based on a Spanish myth, but either way, Javier Bardem really holds some scenes together here. But he is known for playing brilliant bad guys (No Country for Old Men and Skyfall).

The problem with Salazar’s Revenge is that it’s formula is getting repetitive: a villain is trapped in a cursed form because of the actions of Jack Sparrow, the villain seeks his revenge, two young adventurers aid Jack to find a mystical object of the sea and all are followed by the constantly angry East India Trading Company who chase them around the oceans (lead by the snarling David Wenham, who’s character really isn’t necessary at all). Another problem is that Jack is sometimes completely redundant in a scene, as it becomes more about Carina and Henry and their personal reasons why they need the Trident. Henry’s reason resonates with us more, especially if you’ve followed all of the Pirates movies.


It has some great stand-out moments though, namely Jack’s hilarious narrow escapes from the  guillotine, when his crew attempt to rob a bank, meeting Jack’s Uncle (a genuinely funny Paul McCartney) and Salazar’s flashback to encountering a young Jack Sparrow. At times, bits of the action sequences are impressive. But, it’s a bit of a CGI fest as the plot lunges back and forth between stock characters and action sequences, with not one bloody sword fight! Mythology and exposition, too, is rarely explained and inconsistent (the Trident? Jack’s compass being able to free an entire cursed army from their cave? How Barbosa obtained that ruby? I could go on…)

The appearance of older and original characters though do make some impact, but that enough doesn’t make Salazar’s Revenge great. Also, what bothers me is that apparently there are MORE Pirates’ films to come – how?! The ending reaches a state of equilibrium, and there is nothing else that can be exhausted: no curses, myths, legends or characters we’ve followed for five films. I don’t see how it can evolve but, like the Disney ride these films are based on, we’ll just have to wait to ride it again.



Film Review and Musings: No Country For Old Men (2007)

Recently, in a Film & TV lecture, we were taken by a Production Designer who had worked on such shows like ‘Game of Thrones’. This excited me and it was an absolute pleasure of course. But what interested me is how she showed an example clip from ‘No Country for Old Men’, a real favourite film of mine. The scene in question is where Anton Chigurh enters a lonesome gas station and asks the owner the famous line “what’s the most you’ve ever lost in a coin toss?” The brilliance of Chigurgh’s character is that he intimates and overpowers every person he meets without having to do much and still manages to terrify you. Before, I believed this was just due to the marvellous Javier Bardem and his acting skills, but she proved me wrong. I won’t take away from Bardem, because of course, he was and is superior and the Oscar speaks for itself, but the character was shown even further with the attention to detail within the production design, mise-en-scene and placement of the scene. And this fascinated me, as film and it’s industry continues to do all the time. The attention to detail in this business is extraordinary and I truly believe some film professionals are some of the smartest, quick-witted people in the world.

Watching that clip brought me back to a film review I wrote many years ago for my home city’s newspaper (Bristol’s Evening Post) and I actually managed to locate it! So here it is in it’s original form, which did in fact get printed. Goodness I was 16. Please bear this in mind… Also, read Cormac McCarthy novels. That’s all from my rambling…


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‘No Country For Old Men’ has it all. If you like tasteful action and violence, it’s got it. If horror is your thing, it’s here. Ultimately, this is a thriller, but if it’s also films where the acting has to be phenomenal and the script is clever and witty that grab you, then this is definitely the film to watch.

Adapted from Cormac McCarthy’s novel of the same name, ‘No Country for Old Men’ is directed and written by Cinema Masters the Coen Brothers, Joel and Ethan. It is, essentially, a cat-and-mouse game involving three men. Llewyn Moss (Josh Brolin), war vet turned welder and hunter, stumbles on a bloody scene-a drugs deal gone wrong. He leaves the drugs but leaves the scene with a bag of $2 million dollars. But, as you may expect, he is now a target to a ruthless, psychopathic hitman called Anton Chigurh, brilliantly played by Javier Bardem who won an Oscar for his portrayal of this truly chilling character. The third dragged in is Sheriff Ed Tom Bell (also excellent Tommy Lee Jones) who is hunting down both, to protect Moss and stop Chigurh. And all three are helped along by a great supporting cast including Kelly Macdonald and Woody Harrelson.

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With typical Coen twists and turns which will keep you at the edge of your seat in suspense- look out for the scenes in the motels, you really will have no nails left- lets you feel unsurprised that this won a Best Picture, Director and Adapted Screenplay Oscars as well as Supporting Actor, Javier Bardem, stealing the show. However, Tommy Lee Jones, for me, is ranked a close second, as the excellent script sees that he gets all the best lines, in particular, when his colleague asks at the start of the film “It’s a mess aint it Sheriff?” Jones replies “well if aint, it’ll do ‘til the mess gets here” and get there it does!

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