This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.
LegionWrex’s review published on Letterboxd:
This review may contain spoilers.
The Curse of the Black Pearl is so good beyond what it should be I think it defies a lot of comprehension. This is the kind of blockbuster that we should be constantly getting - unrestrained, pure unadulterated fun from beginning to end. The energy on screen here is unfathomable, every here is giving it their absolute all.
One of the all time great adventure films, The Curse of Black Pearl pretty much resurrected a genre from it's grave and gave a face lift unlike anything. It's visually stunning, phenomenally directed, and well acted from all fronts, plus it mixes in a clever and quotable script that never forgets characterization at the heart of it's narrative.
During the age of piracy, Elizabeth Swann (Keira Knightley), a maiden and daughter of a governor, is kidnapped by the ruthless Hector Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush), captain of the Black Pearl, a ship cursed to the undead. Wanting to save his childhood friend and love, blacksmith Will Turner (Orlando Bloom) teams up with the morally ambiguous pirate Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) to rescue her, despite Jack having his own motivations in finding the Black Pearl.
A classic swashbuckler setup, what separates The Curse of the Black Pearl from it contemporaries is it's details. Unwilling to simply tell a pirate story, director Gore Verbinski, in his first major blockbuster, showcases an adept eye for accuracy, practical effects work, and action scenes. If anything, the film should be lauded solely for it's technicals which are nothing short of breathtaking. Even almost two decades later, they hold up miraculously well.
However, a film is nothing without it's script and this is where the movie really shines through. Ted Elliot and Terry Rossio's fantastic script is tight, well crafted, and extremely clever. It never takes itself too seriously, remembering to put the adventure, setpieces, and fun first, but it also doesn't skimp out on the darker elements either. Smartly as well, the script never puts the pirates morality into question - they are almost always grey and selfish, constantly out for themselves, portraying a world where the lawless run free and the rules mean nothing.
It's in the chaos that our three leads shine, showing three sides of the equation of piracy - the noble hero, the unpredictable scoundrel, and the dreamer. The film never really positions any of them as a true lead, with all three of them bouncing off each other throughout the film in increasingly clever and smart ways.
With a powerhouse performance leading the entire film, Johnny Depp is a goddamn revelation here. We seem to forget that Depp didn't always do this shtick, and yet even after his constant reusing of it Jack Sparrow remains a one of a kind creation - the kind of film character that sticks with you time and time again and with good reason. He's hilarious, widely unpredictable, but also a schemer, scoundrel, and morally ambiguous in a way that makes him fascinating and likable. Though that isn't to say the rest of the cast isn't great either - Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightley are great as the leads, carrying a classic adventure vibe to both their romance and overall personalities, and Geoffrey Rush is clearly having a blast eating the scenery as the villainous Barbossa in a performance worthy of knocking Depp out of the spotlight.
Klaus Badelt, one of Zimmer's proteges, composed the score to the film, though Zimmer was responsible for much of it. That being said, Badelt's contributions to the overall score shouldn't be ignored, including most of the main compositions, though Zimmer's now iconic main theme carries this score from simply great to legendary status - something that carries over to his later films in the series.
Exceptionally directed, scored, and breathtaking to look at, The Curse of the Black Pearl is an all time classic out of the gate and one of the all time great adventure films. It's wickedly clever and smart script, as well as unique setpieces, make it a entertaining time from start to finish, and features exceptional performances from the entire cast, especially Johnny Depp and Geoffrey Rush's simply fantastic turns. It's not just nostalgia talking - this is the real deal.