Buccaneers loath to walk the plank
Would you rather see Johnny Depp hanged or beheaded? Either would do a lot more damage to his good looks than the “bugger off” deportation Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce threatened when the actor was here in 2015 filming Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales. Now the film is on screen, we can see there are more draconian judges than Mr Joyce. In one of the highlight scenes Captain Jack Sparrow (Depp) has his head secured in a guillotine. Carina Smyth (English actress Kaya Scodelario) is on another execution platform, in a noose. What happens next is jolly to watch.
Carina, an astronomer who is considered a witch, and Henry Turner (Queensland actor Brenton Thwaites) are the new blood in this fifth instalment of the franchise. Henry’s father, Will (Orlando Bloom), is on the crew of a cursed, otherworldly ship. Henry thinks he can save him by finding the sea-controlling Trident of Poseidon, which is on a “map no man can read”.
Luckily for Henry, Carina is not a man. It’s not lucky for her, and that leads to some deft jokes, such as what the pirates think she means when she boasts she’s also a horologist. Together Henry and Carina must find Sparrow, who has something they need. They will have to cross swords with him, along with walking dead-ish Spanish pirate hunter Captain Armando Salazar (a splendid Javier Bardem) and Sparrow’s old comrade/rival Captain Hector Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush). And the British navy, naturally. David Wenham pops up as an officer.
This $230 million movie is directed by Norwegian team Joachim Ronning and Espen Sandberg, Oscar-nominated for the 2012 Thor Heyerdahl drama Kon-Tiki. They and cinematographer Paul Cameron ( Total Recall, Westworld) deliver inventive scenes, such as a bank robbery that redefines the term. It’s when we first see Sparrow: in a bank vault, asleep, drunk, gibbering. There is an attractive woman as usual, but no Yorkshire terriers this time.
Screenwriter Jeff Nathanson honours the longstanding jokes, such as how dumb pirates are. There’s a unionistic tilt to their demands. “A one-legged man with 18-pound balls,’’ Sparrow says when one mentions Barbossa’s superior artillery. “No wonder he can’t walk properly.” The subtitle plays with Salazar’s policy of killing every man on a ship but one, so that survivor can spread the fear. This amusing buccaneering adventure, fifth time to sea, isn’t ready to walk the plank just yet. The Sense of an Ending is based on the 2011 Man Booker Prize-winning novel by Julian Bar- nes. While Indian director Ritesh Batra (the award-winning The Lunchbox) and screenwriter Nick Payne do make some changes, the film explores the same themes as the book: time, memory, ageing, the damage our younger selves can do without knowing it, and the often disturbing gap between what happened and what is remembered.
This is a quiet, coiled, sometimes wry film that touches on how we live, and how we live to regret. It has an outstanding British cast led by Jim Broadbent and including Charlotte Rampling, Harriet Walter, Michelle Dockery, Freya Mavor, Billy Howle and a slowly mesmerising Joe Alwyn, building on from his impressive previous role in Billy Flynn’s Long Halftime Walk.
The story is set in two time frames that at times merge. This is part of the tension, well captured when young Adrian (Alwyn) says to his teacher, “History is that certainty produced at the point where the imperfections of memory meet the inadequacies of documentation.’’ That’s from the past story. The present centres on Tony Webster (Broadbent), a 60-ish divorced man who runs a shop selling vintage cameras. He’s reserved to the point of remoteness. His pregnant daughter Susie (Dockery) lovingly calls him “mudge’’, though he denies he’s a curmudgeon. Tony’s life alters when he receives a letter regarding the will of a woman he once knew. She was the mother of his first girlfriend back in university days, Veronica (Mavor). This takes us back to that time, to young Tony (Howle), Veronica and their friend Adrian. We learn Tony did something wrong.
The older Tony gradually comes to accept the trauma of what he did. He talks with his QC ex-wife Margaret (Walter) and eventually, painfully, meets up with Veronica (a cool Rampling), after a long absence, a long silence. As mentioned, this is a quiet film, but it will make a lot of noise inside your head, inside your heart.
Johnny Depp and Kaya Scodelario in Pirates of the Caribbean, left; Charlotte Rampling and Jim Broadbent in The Sense of an Ending