Is it really only a year since the last Pirates of the Caribbean film (Dead Man’s Chest) ended so abruptly after three hours that it felt almost personally insulting? Apparently. Now the team are back to try and complete the long drawn out story and provide some level of satisfaction for those of us who wanted a little more than huge, episodic, set-pieces that go nowhere.
To the credit of writers Elliott and Rosso and director Verbinski, At World’s End does a fair job of wrapping up the meandering story and the final hour is as thrilling as any in recent cinema — its just a shame it’s taken eight hours of endless double-crossing to get there.
At World’s End jumps straight in to the story with no assistance for people like me, whose memory of the previous films are untainted by plot detail. Captain Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush), Elizabeth Swann (Keira Knightley) and Will Turner (Orlando Bloom) attempt to steal a map and a ship from Singapore’s meanest pirate Sao Feng (Chow Yun-Fat) so they can sail to Davy Jones’ Locker to rescue the recently deceased Jack Sparrow (the better than ever Johnny Depp). They need (rather than want) to do this so that Sparrow can stab the heart of Davy Jones’ (brilliantly be-tentacled Bill Nighy), which is in a box, and prevent mean capitalist Lord Cutler Beckett (Tom Hollander) from making the high seas safe for international trade by destroying all pirates forever. Or something like that.
Most of the pleasures in this film are, as usual, in the gags but it is very pleasing to report that there is good character work being done by all the leads, particularly Knightley (the world’s 2nd most beautiful West Ham fan) who seems to truly embrace movie stardom here for the first time and really dominate a scene or two. The long-awaited Keith Richard cameo is also a treat and perfectly handled.
Moving on to a film so different that it hardly seems like we are talking about the same art form, Aurora Borealis is a small-scale, domestic drama set in freezing Minneapolis. Dawson’s Creek’s Joshua Jackson stars as lost boy Duncan Shorter, a talented guy un-tethered since the death of his father ten years before. Drifting from McJob to McJob he’s failing to get any kind of handle on life until his grandparents get him a job as a handyman in their apartment building so he’ll be close by.
Watching his grandfather (Donald Sutherland) deteriorate physically and mentally (and the introduction to his life of the proverbial “good woman”, a nurse played winningly by Juliette Lewis) forces Duncan to confront the family baggage that he’s denied for so long and, maybe, get on with his life. It’s not a particularly original theme, but the snowy mid-western look, the studied performances and the well-drawn relationships make it a film worth recommending. Like the under-rated Snow Cake, its nice to see a film about good people rather than some of the nastiness and viciousness we are confronted with so often.
Printed in Wellington’s Capital Times on Wednesday 30 May, 2007.