HACKSAW RIDGE




            I missed Hacksaw Ridge at the pictures.  Maybe I was demotivated by the Oscar buzz.  Cos films that win Oscars tend to be safe and pensioner-friendly, don’t they?  Also, it’s a soppy story about a religious nut at war, directed by another religious nut.  Certainly one to avoid, right?  Wrong.  Oh so very wrong.  Now the film is out on disc and download: Watch it!
            The first time I saw Hacksaw Ridge, I had a vague sense of déjà vu.  The dust and the grit of the battlefield, the sudden explosive and unrelenting violence, the bond between the men and the deep, abiding faith underpinning it all ... It all rang a distant bell.
            It reminded me of the Mel Gibson starrer, We Were Soldiers (2002).  This was written and directed by Randall Wallace, who had written the Oscar-nominated film Braveheart for Mel Gibson seven years earlier.

The differences between Hacksaw and We Were Soldiers are overt and immeditately obvious.  The similarities are more subtle and under the skin.
            Both films concern themselves with the gritty brutality of war (different wars, but photographed in very similar ways), how this tests decent men, and the effect it all has on their families.  In Hacksaw, the focus is on Doss’ dad (Hugo Weaving), still struggling with survivor guilt twenty years after the First war, and terrified of seeing his sons go the way all of his friends went: straight into an early grave.  In We Were Soldiers, it’s the wives we spend time with, waiting in fear for the telegrams, led by a stoical Madeleine Stowe.
            But the similarities are not just thematic; they are woven throughout the fabric of Hacksaw Ridge.  Like the earlier film, when it shows the inscrutable Oriental enemy at all, it shows them travelling by tunnel, and sketches in the suggestion that they, too, are brave and honourable men, fighting for a cause they hold dear. 
            In the heat of battle, we get blood splashing the camera, in both films; we get God’s eye views of the wounded, we get slow-motion explosions filling the air with dirt and fire.  Repeatedly, the person speaking disappears in a spray of red in mid sentence, by a head shot that snuffs out their life before the sound of the shot is heard.  

This is the end.  The titular Hacksaw Ridge, where soldiers have to climb a ladder to reach Hell.
            There is an emphasis on excruciating wounds, particularly leg gore, and on men burning, as well as on the importance of evacuating the wounded.  We get men carried over shoulders. 
            There’s more:  We get a steely drill sergeant (Sam Elliot in Soldiers, Vince Vaughn in Hacksaw), and a decent C.O. (Gibson himself in Soldiers, Sam Worthington in Hacksaw). 
            In We Were Soldiers, the journalist, Joe Galloway, (played by Barry Pepper, fresh from his turn in 1999’s Saving Private Ryan) is a non-combatant who doesn’t know how to use a gun.  He co-wrote the book of what occurred in the Ia Drang Valley, in this true story.   
            In Hacksaw, of course, Andrew Garfield plays Desmond Doss, a medic who won’t use a gun, and who, eventually, told what occurred on that ridge, in this true story.

The real Desmond Doss.
            But Hacksaw Ridge’s lack of originality doesn’t hinder it one iota.  I know literally no-one who doesn’t love the film.  It’s also true that, in almost every way, Hacksaw is the superior movie.  Granted, there is nothing here the equal of the scenes in Soldiers where Stowe takes the telegrams to her neighbours, one by one, to tell them their husbands are dead.  But, otherwise, Hacksaw is all heart, carried by Garfield’s simply, gritty determination and his puppy-dog eyes.
            One key difference that’s worth mentioning, is with the way the two films depict the Sarge.  Where Vaughn brings a real human warmth to Hacksaw, in a role that could easily have turned into a parody of Full Metal Jacket’s R. Lee Ermey (1987), Sam Elliott, in Soldiers, is largely thrown away in his rendition of the same role, because his natural humour and charm are missing, leaving inflexible, humourless efficiency.  There’s always something off in a film where Sam Elliott doesn’t have that wonderfully lush ’tache.
You keep 'em peeled for that facial adornment, boy.  It's gone AWOL.
            Vaughn’s performance is important in setting the tone for what follows.  He isn’t a screaming caricature, he respects his troops.  He isn’t simply trying to turn them into robo-soldiers, he’s someone who understands his men, and understands the sacrifice they are about to make.  It’s significant that he goes into combat with them.
            When, early on, the whole platoon is punished for Doss’ pacifism, their revenge against him is quite restrained.  But then, the plot requires us to like these guys and root for them, later on, so they can’t be seen to do anything too monstrous.  It’s quite a trick to swiftly sketch-in a roomful of grunts, all wearing the same uniform, all doing the same things.  But we quickly get to pick out a few characters, and they will see us through to the all-important show-down atop the cliff.  We learn to care for them as much as Doss does.

Vince Vaughn giving the performance of his career (so far) as the restrained, humane, Sgt. Howell, leading his men into harm's way, not sending them in first.
            Hacksaw Ridge wears its heart on its sleeve.  Indeed, it wears most every organ externally at one point or another, as Gibson’s famous eye for gore continues undiminished.  But, despite the eye-watering gore and the relentlessly merciless violence, this is a film which doesn’t sink into exploitation, because it’s a story about inner strength and decency.  It’s a film about faith.  Cleverly, Gibson saves this from being a cloying Biography Channel Sunday-afternoon movie, because he doesn’t lecture; the film isn’t on a mission to convert.  It shows Doss being confused by his own faith, but never conflicted about it.  He doesn’t know why it’s right not to pick up a gun, he just knows it is.  It’s his personal faith, produced by his personal circumstances, no-one else’s.
            Faith is a strong thread running through both Hacksaw and Soldiers - in that film Gibson prays with his children at the beginning.  The appeal of this to Gibson is obvious now, less so when the film first came out.  It’s worth saying that it’s an impressive achievement that Gibson put this film together.  Just five years ago, his career was in tatters and his behaviour had reduced him to a comedian’s punch-line.  Yet, he managed to put together the finance and get the production and distribution support for this epic movie.  It probably helps that he still has interests in Icon, the production company he set up in the 90s).  But there’s no denying that he is still an impressive presence on screen (his turn as the villain in 2014’s Expendables 3 demonstrated that), however, for this film, he stayed behind the camera, didn’t even put himself in there as a cameo; and that was a wise decision because, on-screen, he is still a controversial presence; off-screen, not so much (we’ll see if that continues to be the case if he continues with his plan to make a sequel to 2004’s Passion of the Christ).

Gibson behind the scenes - here with Sam Worthington and, Jesus, Vince Vaughn isn't that tall is he?
            There was never any doubt that Gibson is a director of considerable skill - Braveheart (1995) demonstrated that beyond any doubt.  Hacksaw Ridge shows that twenty turbulent years have left this ability undimmed.  Maybe he is planning to ‘do a Clint’ and retreat behind the camera for the rest of his career.  If so, there seems to be little downside to that, as he remains a great instinctive film-maker.
            The core of this film is the night Doss spends alone on the ridge, and it is a riveting sequence.  It benefits from the character-building of the film’s first half.  It benefits from the way that everyone since Spielberg’s Saving Private Ryan (1999) shoots World War 2; the way they already shot Viet-Nam, as being gritty and dirty and genuinely scary.  This isn’t some nostalgic piece of flag-waving, this is history as it is lived at ground level, minute by minute, heartbeat by heartbeat.
            I’ve watched Hacksaw Ridge with film-geek friends, with my partner (who hates war films) and with my dad (who prefers ’em to feature Clint or John Wayne) .  They all loved it.  So, watch Hacksaw Ridge.  Then, maybe go back and give We Were Soldiers another chance.  The two films complement each other! 
            Hacksaw succeeds in telling an inspiring tale that works for a wide audience!  And I defy anyone to not feel a pricking at the corners of their eyes when they hear the words “help me one more”.


“We're waiting for Private Doss to finish praying for us"  That's it, I'm fillin' up, now ...
Dir: Mel Gibson
Writers:  Robert Schenkkan & Andrew Knight
Dur: 139 mins.
Cert: 15

WONDER WOMAN



           I love superheroes.  I learned to read on black and white reprints of Spider-Man comics back in the early seventies; then I made many friends during the comic shop boom of the late eighties and nineties.  And now I’m basking in them all over again, up there on the big screen.
            Thing is, throughout all this, I have always been a Marvelite.  DC didn’t appeal to me.  Even when I was very small, their heroes seemed silly and their stories even sillier.  Reading Marvel comics made me feel grown up, like I had some secret insight into the lives of adults (Peter Parker was always struggling to pay his rent, Sue and Reed Richards were always struggling to balance the competing jobs of being superheroes and parents).
            The one time I did read DC was during that brief period in the late eighties when Jim Shooter drove several key Marvel artists and writers into the arms of Karen Berger, over at DC.  These included the artist George Perez, who brought his exquisitely detailed talents to bear on Wonder Woman.  This, then, was the only time I ever read her adventures.

A hint of the beautifully drawn and beautifully designed work of Mr. Perez.
            Consequently, I bring very little prior knowledge to a DC movie.  I had no idea who anyone was in last year’s Suicide Squad (except The Joker and Harley).  This means I can come to a superhero film as a relatively clean slate, something I can’t do with Marvel films.  The movie stands or falls by being a good or bad film in itself, not whether it’s a good or bad adaptation of a beloved childhood memory.
            This why I can say, after much consideration, that Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight is hands down the best superhero film ever made.  Not the most fun superhero film (that’s Marvel’s 2014 Guardians), not the most satisfyingly geeky superhero film (that’s 2012’s Avengers), just the flat-out best piece of film-making to feature a superhero.  It is the most complete, most satisfying superhero film in and of itself.
            Man of Steel (2013), Batman v Superman (2016) and Suicide Squad (2016) have been risible, lamentable failures, by comparison. 
            To put your curiosity out of its misery, Wonder Woman is nowhere near as good as Dark Knight, but it towers over the other three.  It’s a completely satisfying piece of film-making.  It’s one of those films which is far from perfect but wins the viewer over so completely with its charm, that you just don’t mind (It has that in common with Guardians Vol. 2, which is perfectly imperfect - see my review here).

Introducing the Amazonian squad of ultimate badasses.  Check it out: independently targeted bow and arrows.  We've got tactical swords, tempered-steel ball-breakers.  We've got shields, knives, and pointy sticks! 
            Our story begins in an idyllic Grecian wonderland (which, I believe, is a hold-over from those Perez comics, 30 years ago) where the entire population are women warriors called Amazons.  It’s like Zack Snyder’s 300 (2006), only with less well-developed breasts.  This background does, at least, explain why Diana’s costume is a corset and a miniskirt because, back in the day, even men wore skirts.  According to these Amazonians’ own myths, they have the power to craft babies out of clay, but only Zeus can give it life.  So, these feminist warriors are still dependent on men, then.  Indeed, so the myth goes, they were created by Zeus to show men love and peace and stop them fighting each other perpetually.  Cos, y’know what boys are like when there’s no girls around.   
            “We are the bridge to a greater understanding between all men."  And how's that going, hidden away here on your paradise island, with no men around?
            This mythic flashback is presented as a series of animated Pre-Raphaelite paintings, which is certainly a diverting way to dump a lot of exposition on the audience in a short space of time - it certainly worked for Del Toro when he did it at the beginning of Hellboy II (2008).
            Young Princess Diana is being protected from Ares, the God who will bring war to her, if he discovers her existence (you find out why, later on).  However, rather conveniently, Diana discovers she has an explosive super-power just as war comes a-knocking in the form of a WW1 pilot who falls through an unexplained time-warp kinda thing, bringing a fleet of Germans on his tail.
            There are men on the Amazons’ island.  Well, that isn’t going to end well.               

Robin Wright is General Antiope.  Training Diana, kicking asses and taking names.
            A battle ensues, swords and arrows against machine-guns and, of course, Snyder’s fingerprints are all over this (he’s still got overall creative control of these DC films), but that just adds to the balletic elegance of what we see.  This vision of female warriors, it’s not like a Kathryn Bigelow film, where she’s just concerned with repeatedly demonstrating that she’s got brassier balls than the boys; these action scenes have quite a different feel about them.
            After this, we settle into a little getting-to-know-you.  These scenes serve several purposes.  We get chance to get to know both Gal Gadot’s Diana and Chris Pine’s Steve, as they get to know each other, but the film also plays around with the clichés of the genre.  So she walks in on him in the bath, rather than the other way round, and he is therefore reduced to sex-object to be looked at, which is a delicious reversal of the usual way of things.
            Of course, that isn’t the only reversal we get here.  A lot of very familiar motifs are made new again by simply having them involve women.  For example, it is Diana who draws the magic sword.  I’ve seen a lot of warriors tool up with a lot of swords, but never a woman before.  Not before bloody time.  Remember the bullet-catch in Superman the Movie (1978), where Clark catches a bullet destined for Lois?  Well, that gets reversed here, too.
            There is beautifully written fun to be had with their mutual misunderstanding of each other’s customs.  And the scene where she persuades him to sleep with her is subverted from the usual male wish-fulfilment fantasy, when she matter-of-factly assures him that she knows all about procreation and understands that men are “unnecessary for pleasure”.  That would feel very different in a film made by men!

Chris Pine's Steve Trevor, just standing there, looking all above average and that.
            Steve’s ‘secretary’, Etta Candy, is played perfectly by Lucy Davis, but isn’t given nearly enough to do.  She, again, provides a thread of very human comedy, when she and Diana go clothes shopping and, again, a sequence that could have ridiculed both parties, or been played purely so the camera can catch a glimpse of breast in a mirror, is a lovely piece of character comedy.  It pushes the story along a bit, but it pushes the characters along a lot.
            It was interesting seeing this film just a week after Pirates of the Caribbean, and comparing the way the two films deal with an assertive female character.  Pirates’ Carina is branded a witch, because she understands astronomy and navigation; in this film Diana’s entrance into a Whitehall cabinet meeting, with her understanding of tactics and foreign codes, is met with a comparably scathing response.  Even though the great and the good are discussing the imminent end of the war, it suddenly becomes far more important to get the woman out of the room.  Priorities, guys.
            This does, of course, let Diana (and us) get first-hand experience of the complacent corrupt old men who are running the war, before we get to experience the grit and grim of the battle first hand.  It’s important to get that perspective.  When I saw, in the trailer, that this film was going to drop Wonder Woman into the First World War, I was really concerned about this being cheap and exploitative.  But it isn’t, because the film concentrates on the human sacrifice, on the pain, on the victims.  Diana’s whole mission is to confront Ares, which is, in essence, the mission to end all war.
            Well, that’s gotta be a good thing!
            As we move into the film’s second half, set amid the chaos of the Western Front, we are introduced to a rogue’s gallery of swiftly-sketched side-kicks and colourful characters who, again, add to the films humour and humanity.  Wonder Woman is also chock-full of clever little details such as, for random example, the way Steve brings with him “English tea for the Germans, German beer for the English, and Edgar Rice Burroughs books for both”.

The motley crew:  Saïd Taghmaoui as Sameer, Chris Pine as Steve Trevor, Eugene Brave Rock as Chief and the bird in the unnecessarily short skirt ... is Ewen Bremner.
            The first big action set-piece, when Diana cuts loose in a small town overrun with Germans; bears more than a passing resemblance to the scene in Iron Man (2008), when Tony Stark first uses the suit, and takes out a town full of badguys.  But that scene worked for Marvel, it was a hair-on-the-back-of-the-neck moment that played a major part in building the billion-dollar empire that is now the Marvel Cinematic Universe; so, why shouldn’t DC try to catch some of that lightning in their own bottle?  I have to say, watching Diana running fearlessly into overwhelming odds, has a similarly inspiring effect.  That is a genuinely exciting action scene!
            As the film proceeds, it misses a few steps, and the plot reversals - the surprises that you aren’t supposed to see coming - are bleeding obvious; and there are a few annoying plot threads that are left dangling (such as what's with the time-warp thingy at the beginning ... and why did it suddenly appear?); but I really didn’t care.  The film had paid its dues, it had built up a cast of interesting and likeable characters who a really cared for; which is more than can be said for Man of Steel, Batman v Superman or Suicide Squad.
            The film even shoe-horns a few genuinely profound philosophical thoughts in amongst the energy bolts and flying masonry of the inevitably explosive show-down.

That really is an inefficient way to carry a long sword.  I mean, yes, it looks cool, of course it does, but, unless you've got freakishly long arms, you're never gonna get it out of the damn scabbard.
            So, Wonder Woman (and, thankfully, that phrase is never spoken in the film) makes credible a character who has always seemed, frankly, ridiculous.  Gal Gadot’s central performance is mistressful.  She is equally comfortable with the comedy as she is the drama, and she manages to wear that armoured corset with real dignity.  Chris Pine is perfectly chosen as her foil, because his humour strikes the right tone throughout (and, let’s face it, humour is something these DC films have been sorely lacking).  It is to the credit of all that Diana isn’t simply reduced to being Steve’s straight-woman.  She has her own intelligence and her own mischievous sense of humour.  She is, in other words, a fully-rounded character.  Imagine that.
            It is a tribute to the skills of scriptwriter Allan Heinberg, that this film feels like it was written by a woman.  He’s worked on TV shows with predominantly female casts, so he has a good idea of how to structure a scene so it doesn’t feel creepy or clichéd - as several of the getting-to-know-you scenes would have if they’d been written less sensitively.


In her first major acting role, Ms. Gadot manages to be disarming, both in the literal sense in the action scenes, but also in the more sensitive moments requiring a skilled actor.  Expect her to be a BIG star, very soon.
             Judging from the responses I've seen and read; this film is already inspiring a whole generation of young girls; hopefully to do more than just usher in a new fashion in cosplay.  I imagine there will a significant uptake of girls studying Martial Arts.  Which would be pretty frickin' awesome!
            And, of course, an incredible amount of credit has to be given to director, Patty Jenkins.  It’s been fourteen years since she directed a movie, but the last one she made was called Monster (2003) and it won Charlize Theron a hatful of awards, including an Academy Award.  I wonder if Jenkins chose to leave it this long, or if she just couldn’t find a project that was worthy of her?  Her touch is assured, throughout.  She handles the special effects confidently (okay, some of the flying scenes are a bit ropey), gives all of her characters depth and interest, paces the dialogue beautifully to bring out the comedy and the drama, often in the same scene, and then builds action scenes that wouldn’t be out of place in any recent blockbuster.
            Given the overwhelmingly positive response Wonder Woman has received, I wouldn’t be surprised if this superhero film doesn’t gather some traction at Oscar time.  Either way, I hope Jenkins is bombarded with offers to make films that are worthy of her, and she doesn’t leave it another fourteen years before she shows us all how it’s done, one more time.

Writer: Allen Heinberg
Director: Patty Jenkins 
Cert: 12A
Dur: 141 mins

PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: SALAZAR SETS NO SAILS

            The official story is that Johnny Depp was totally committed to On Stranger Tides ... The fourth Pirates film, released back in 2011.  He made casting decisions, tinkered with the story.  He really got involved.  Sometimes that can lead to great, inspiring work.  Other times that can make a for an unwieldy vanity project.
            The resulting film was okay.  The inspired casting of the literally-can-do-no-wrong Ian McShane helped things along.  Freshened things up.  But Rob Marshall isn’t an action director, and he isn’t a director with the dark vision that Gore Verbinski brought to the first three films (the second and third of which are far better than most people give them credit for.  There, I said it).
            Despite being just okay, the film went on to gross over a billion, which guaranteed there’d be another.
            Anyway, the point is he was totally committed to the fourth film.  Gave his all.  
            So, what the fuck happened?  Cos, this time, he’s phoned his performance in.  I did wonder if he was genuinely drunk, or stoned; as the lightness of touch that he brought to the role originally has now gone, and he’s playing Captain Jack simply as a clumsy, drunken oaf, with a perpetually bored expression.  Not unlike that on my face when I was watching this turd float across the screen.

What do you mean?  This is my happy face.
            Since the catastrophic industry-shaking nose-dive of Depp and Verbinski’s Lone Ranger in 2013, Depp’s career has entered a challenging phase.  In fact, when exactly was the last time Depp made a financially successful film?  Y’know, when he isn’t wearing Sparrow’s dreads?  Well, there was Alice in Wonderland in 2010, but everyone pretty much knows that was hit mostly because it was riding Avatar’s 3D coat-tails.  So, when was he actually good in a film?  Personally, I thought he did great work as the gangster Whitey Bulger, in Black Mass (2015).  If anything, the story let him down; but it was true so, whaddya gonna do?  And, of course, he was glorious in Rango in 2011 but, y’know, that was just a few days in the recording studio.
            It’s fair to say that Depp is not the cultural behemoth that the first Pirates made him.  Before that film, he chose mostly odd-ball indie films, when he wasn’t playing Tim Burton in various Tim Burton films.  He carved out a very lucrative, very eccentric niche for himself.  This didn’t, apparently, prepare him for megastardom.  It’s been common knowledge over the last couple of years that his life has been in something of a (relative) free-fall and it is, therefore, very possible that he wasn’t emotionally and psychologically in the best place when he was making this Pirates film.

When your career gets to that 'I can't get arrested' phase ... Take a trip to a land down under.  They'll sort you out.  (Just don't forget to take the dogs).
            The story concerns the son of Orlando and Keira’s Will and Elizabeth, and his search for the way to break the curse that keeps his dad undead on The Flying Dutchman.  Despite the success of Stanger Tides, this film, essentially, ignores it and returns to addressing questions that were already answered in the original trilogy.
            We start with undead sea captain Barbarossa Salazar in his haunted galleon The Pearl The Flying Dutchman, Silent Mary, a ship which swallows up other ships (like Stromberg’s tanker in 19777’s The Spy Who Loved Me); he tasks young Henry with finding Jack Sparrow and delivering unto him a message.  “Why can’t you tell him yourself?”  “Because ...” Pull back to wide shot, deliver the punch line: “Because ... Dead Men Tell Know Tales!”  And there is the title, written large across the screen: Salazar’s Revenge.  God knows why they decided to change the title from Dead Men Tell No Tales here.  It’s not like we culturally don’t understand the phrase.  But, it is emblematic of the lack of identity this film has.  It isn’t really its own beast; it’s more just a patchwork of elements from the first three films.
            Newcomer Brenton Thwaites plays Henry, the son, and you can tell why they cast him, he very much has the air of a younger Orlando, all fresh-faced and bushy eye-browed.  His opposite number is Kaya Scodelario as Carina, who is quite convincing as that most terrifying of creatures, an intelligent woman.  So intelligent that she spends the first act of the film avoiding being burned as a witch by terrified men.
            It was a nice move making the female lead an independent and intelligent woman, who doesn’t need rescuing and, indeed, actually does some rescuing.  It’s just a shame that they then felt the need to get her into her (voluminous) underwear and make repeated lascivious jokes about her being a HOR-ologist.  That’s hardly advancing the cause of women in film.
It's alright, it'll be fine.  I'm sure SyFy will hire us both for one of their shark films after this.
            Both of these young leads do earnest work here, but the returning lags mostly seem distracted and irritated by the needs of acting a scene.  Presumably it was annoying being dragged away from counting all the money they were getting, since that is clearly the only reason they came back.  Yes, okay, Jeffrey Rush’s Barbarossa has been given more to do than in any film since the first one.  Which is good, cos he was kinda window-dressing for a while there.  But he’s still fairly superfluous here, since Javier Bardem is on hand to be the proper badguy.
            Although he is really just an amalgam of Barbarossa from the first film (he’s cursed to be dead but not dead) and Davy Jones from the second (his hair swirls around his face like Jones’ tentacles did his).  Bardem is obviously having fun, spitting black ink and chewing up the scenery.  It’s a shame they chose not to bring back Penelope Cruz’s Angelica, it would have been interesting to see Spain’s most glamorous married couple in a fun film.  It might’ve helped erase the memory of The Counselor (2013).  It might have helped erase the memory of this film!

Looking good, there, Bardem.  You must let me know your moisturising regime ...
            Visually, the film is quite dark, with that muddy lack of contrast that bad 3D has.  Except, I watched this in 2D.  The dialogue is similarly charmless, and never more than functional.  The film lacks the transgressive energy and thrill that Verbinski brought to the first three.  It’s not completely without charm, though, the scene where Jack is in the guillotine as it pendulums and the blade gets closer, gets further away, gets closer again; that has something of the inspiration of the set-pieces of the first film.  But, all too often, the film falls foul of its lame sense of humour.  The scene where Jack is forced to marry a fat woman, for example, is lifted straight out of a Carry On film.  Isn’t this the guy who faced off against a vast tentacle monster ... And yet it’s come to this?
            There’s a lovely tip of the hat to Ray Harryhausen, when the ship’s masthead comes to life and attacks Jack.  And there’s an enticing flashback to young Jack, played by a ‘digitally de-aged’ Depp, taking on his first captaincy.  That’s the film I want to see, not this bilge!

A fresh faced digi-Depp, offering us a tantalising taste of Jacks of the past.  A much more engaging person than the tired, overly familiar and dissolute character (and actor) we get here.
            So, what we’re left with is a muddled plot, which Jack Sparrow doesn’t drive, but is more of a passenger within; a leaden script with very few well-turned lines or memorable one-liners; and a roster of faces returning who do little more than wink at the camera and say “Remember me?”  I love the magic and the marvel of the first three films, but that’s almost entirely lacking here (with the exception of the parting of the waves scenes at the end - but it’s too little too late by then).
            At just a hair over two hours, this is the shortest of the five Pirates films, yet those two hours drag on forever.
            And Paul McCartney?  Really?

Written by: Jeff Nathanson
Directed by: Joachim Rønning & Espen Sandberg
Cert: 12A
Dur: 129 minutes