Buc­ca­neers loath to walk the plank

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Film Reviews -

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

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