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Stealing The Interceptor

Written by Jack Vero
on July 3, 2011

In an effort to elucidate the true genius of Captain Jack Sparrow as portrayed in Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl, I've decided to write a detailed analysis of the scene in which Sparrow steals The Interceptor.

THINKING AHEAD

Though Sparrow's reputation is that of a madman, a spontaneous daredevil, his plans are as well thought out as that of a master chess player. He has the calculated, cautious nature any real adventurer requires to survive. That is why before commencing his plot to steal the ship, he takes a moment to double check that his partner, William Turner, is still committed, that he has not gotten cold feet and may back out midway through the plan, an all too common downfall of many schemes doomed even before they begin.

IMPROVISING

Having received adequate assurance, he then improvises an underwater breathing device using a nearby canoe and uncommon utilization of Newtonian physics. Ingenuity and resourcefulness are evidently in no short supply in Mr. Sparrow. While walking the sea floor Turner remarks, "This is either madness, or brilliant," to which Sparrow replies, "It's remarkable how often those two traits coincide." Truer words are seldom spoken.

THE ELEMENT OF SURPRISE

Sparrow and Turner board the ship from behind, climbing up a rope that was presumably already hanging there. For those of you skeptical about the liklihood of a random dangling rope already being there, I can personally assure you it's actually quite common as I've secretly boarded a ship in this manner on a previous occassion. That rope could've been there for any number of reasons, as a ship in port has many uses for such a line.

REMAIN CALM

Sparrow then assumes control of the ship with a clear, calm order: "Everyone stay calm, we're taking over the ship." They reply with laughter, then smugly point out that this particular ship cannot be crewed by two men, that they'll never make it out of the bay, to which Sparrow replies: "Son," and raises a pistol, "I'm Captain Jack Sparrow. Savvy?"

PLAYING THE FOOL

The scene then cuts to The Commodore at another dock, where he sees Sparrow and Turner trying to steal a currently unsailable, mediocre ship in broad daylight, at which point he says, "That is without doubt, the worst pirate I've ever seen." Brilliant! Sparrow has convinced The Commodore he is incompetent, thereby lowering his opponent's expectations. Playing the fool, a classic opening tactic. Flatter the enemy's intelligence, use their own ego to blind them.

USING THE ENEMY'S STRENGTH AGAINST THEM

While The Commodore rushes aboard with scores of men to find Sparrow and Turner, they sneak aboard the far superior Interceptor, cut the grappling lines, and sail off. By the time The Commodore realizes what has happened, Sparrow is already sailing away, and he yells back, "Thank you Commodore for getting us ready to make way, we woulda had a hard time with it by ourselves."

SABOTAGE

Infuriated, The Commodore orders his men to shoot down the ship, only to be informed that Sparrow has already disabled the rudder chain.

So there they stand, The Commodore and all his mighty men, stranded in a broken ship, unable to pursue or relay orders to shore, forced to watch Sparrow and his single companion sail off in the world's greatest ship, never having shot a single round or spared a drop of blood. While watching them sail away, The Commodore's First Man comments, "That's got to be the best pirate I've ever seen," to which he bitterly replies, "So it would seem."

Now what makes this such an extraordinary scene, aside from it's superb cinematic craftsmanship, is Sparrow's impeccable execution of a grand scheme so well thought out it would actually work in real life. Think about it, there are no holes, no important bits that were left out in editing. Sparrow could certainly steal a small watercraft (I've actually done that myself too), certainly climbed the rope provided he was in good shape - which is reasonable to expect of a pirate, and certainly overpower the unsuspecting crew, thereby luring The Commodore into his trap.

The only unrealistic bit is that when The Commodore's men rushed onto the ship, they probably would've left a few behind. However I believe that Sparrow and Turner would've been able to overpower them, considering that they were both expert swordsmen, armed with a pistol, and had the all-important element of surprise.

Now let's think about the magnitude of what they just accomplished. If I told you that I and one other guy were going to stroll over to the nearest navy base and steal their best ship without firing a single shot, you'd rightly laugh your head off. But that's exactly what Sparrow here accomplished, in a realistic manner. Now perhaps today's security is a little more technologically advanced, but then again, so are our criminals.

What this tells me is that whoever wrote this scene, either Ted Elliott or Terry Rossio, is a very experienced, cunning little miscreant, or at least he used to be. Which, in my mind, immediately puts him on a very special pedestal reserved for people who've actually lived their lives (which is probably why he's in Hollywood in the first place). They utilized nearly every fundamental lesson of good mischief: THINK AHEAD, IMPROVISE, REMAIN CALM, PLAY THE FOOL, USE THE ELEMENT OF SURPRISE, USE THE ENEMY'S STRENGTH AGAINST THEM, and SABOTAGE.

So in short, this is one of my all time favorite scenes because it's both cinematically masterful, and the most realistic, ingenius scheme I've ever seen played out on screen. In studying it you get both a rare taste of absolutely solid dramatic screenwriting, and an invaluable primer on how to get into mischief, and more importantly, how to get out.