In the tradition of great swashbuckler movies like Captain Blood (Errol Flynn) and Black Swan (Tyrone Power), this time-travel drama/romance highlights hair-raising adventures aboard 16th century pirate ships as well as digital-savvy 21st century treasure hunters.
John has imagined Los Cabos, Mexico as the primary setting for this tale—a sea-and-sand wonderland of exquisite natural beauty and stunning scenery that is rich in pirate lore. But this richness has never been leveraged in the commercial media.
The storyline of "Pirates’ Plunder" portrays a modern-day American hero (think Matt Damon, Nicolas Cage, Leonardo DiCaprio) who flies to Mexico and re-lives actual historical moments of Cabo San Lucas’ dramatic pirate past. He is a treasure hunter on a mission to get rich and explore his family roots, while hoping to find the love of his life. But history has strongly opposing ideas! Our hero encounters numerous adventures in his discovery of the treasures, tangible and intangible, of both today’s modern tourist mecca and the grisly glory days of piracy’s harrowing heritage.
An airliner lands at San Jose del Cabo airport during the opening credits. Aerial photography shows the gorgeous sun, land and sea features of Los Cabos, the famed tip of Mexico’s Baja Peninsula. As tourists deboard the plane, we hear Mexican music. Gradually the camera focuses on one tourist in his mid-30s. As his American passport is stamped by customs officials, we see his name: GRANT CAVENDISH.
On the taxi ride to a Cabo San Lucas beach resort, Grant looks out the window at the desert countryside and topaz shoreline while fellow tourists revel, drinking beer and crooning songs. He merely gazes out the window. Capturing his attention is the one-and-only El Arco, the distinctive stone arch in the sea water signaling the vast Pacific Ocean beyond. In his hand he holds a centuries-old silver coin. He squeezes it, as if for good luck, and joins the revelers as they depart the taxi.
Grant checks into the resort hotel, lush and extravagant in every detail. Unlike the other tourists who ask about sport fishing or parasailing, he asks where the library is. His luggage is carried by a local native porter who leads him to his room past a huge, exquisite mural depicting fighting pirates, Spanish galleons, and all sorts of treasure and plunder. He pauses, captivated. Opening his hand, the old coin in his palm no longer appears out of place.
Inside Grant's room, he unpacks and spreads out his things. An authentic old mariner's chart shows distinct characteristics—El Arco, the harbor, the town, and an "X" marked on the beach. He compares it to a modern tourist map showing the same details and the "X" corresponds with the site of his resort hotel. His insatiable desire for adventure ignites and he excitedly gets down to business. Booting up his computer, he plots his treasure hunting plans.
At the palm-lined tourist library, he roams among the book shelves randomly, sizing up the place. Behind the "Information" counter works SERENA, an attractive woman of native heritage. He walks up and practices his student Spanish, asking an innocent sounding question about the region’s pre-European history. She smiles a big smile (we see for the first time, as he does, how pretty she is). Her reply, in fluent English, sets him back only slightly. He persists in Spanish, she persists in English, and it gets comical. They both laugh, then he concedes and asks, in English: "I'm looking for anything you've got pre-1700s, the older the better." "Yes, local history in what area of interest?" "Shipping. Seafaring. Ships' logs. Records of any kind." "Cabo has a very rich history of pirates and buccaneers," she says. "Ah yes, buccaneers. That sounds like a good place to start."
She stands and leads the way to a rear corner. He (along with us) sees that she's not only pretty of face but shapely of limb (think Penelope Cruz, Catherine Zeta-Jones, or Paz Vega in Spanglish). For his part, he is in fit shape, a tip-top 185 pounds. Both of them are similar in age, each about 35-40.
She pulls a dusty leather-bound volume off the shelf and we learn a little about the Spanish influences, and especially the unfamiliar piracy role the English played in the region. At the moment, Grant is more absorbed in her than the old book, then he frowns about the date (1800s) and asks, "Got anything older from the 1500s or 1600s?"
"Sorry. Records that old have been moved to national archives in Mexico City." Dissatisfied, he asks about private collections.
She shrugs, "None, I’m sorry."
In an effort to keep his trip on an upbeat note, he asks if he can apply for a library card to check out a current bestseller. She gladly accommodates, asks where he is staying, etc. As he fills out the simple form, he learns her name is Serena. They chat about good restaurants and appear to be hitting it off. When he shows her his resort keycard for verification, she reads his name and exclaims, "Cavendish! That's a very famous name around here!"
"I know," he replies, sensing a powerful unspoken bond with her. Risking his mission by trusting her, he whispers, "I'm the black sheep of the family in search of my great-great-great-granddad's long lost treasure. It’s buried here somewhere."
She sits back, impressed and upbeat, and very curious to learn more. He realizes in his gut that he guessed right about her trustworthiness. He also has a sixth sense about his mission being safe with her—never mind his being head-over-heels enamored by her.
After midnight in the resort's lobby, Grant stands before the huge painted mural, studying the maritime battle scene in total absorption. The camera shows the details—cannons firing, sailors clashing at sword point, sails torn and rigging ragged—while on the sound track we hear battle sounds, blood-curdling cries, etc. Grant's facial characteristics are eerily similar to one of the sailors, and he carefully takes notes and sketches diagrams to take to his room.
Behind him, two security officers approach, making rounds of the area. They seem harmless enough but, perhaps due to Grant's own sense of paranoia, he gets fearful. Could they be operatives of his nemesis, Henry Clawbuck of Wall Street infamy? Not knowing where to turn in order to conceal himself or his activity, he looks in every direction for an "out." Meanwhile, the battle sounds from the mural get deafeningly loud and the security officers notice Grant's suspicious behavior. They approach more quickly and aggressively. Grant finds nowhere to escape. Swallowing a large lump in his throat, he makes a brash move—he leaps towards the mural, disappearing into it and through it.
The security guards are astonished—their man has vanished!
….TIME SHIFT to the 1600s. Aboard an English buccaneer ship, Grant lands on deck amid the battle going on. He rolls to a stop, like a linebacker crashing into hard ground, and, in the melee, goes unnoticed. He realizes, with astonishment, that he's dressed exactly as the sailors in the mural, in well-worn striped pants, leather belt, and loose shirt. The battle taking place is the exact same as in the mural.
A midships officer barks orders at him, "Look alive and light the fuse!"
He shakes off his astonishment, tries to explain who he is, gets a slap across the face.
"Look alive," bellows the officer, "or I'll make sure you get keel-hauled.” Grant obeys as best he can, now realizing he’s part of the cannon-firing crew (Grant has become part of living history). Only yards away is a Spanish galleon and men from both ships are swinging swords and firing pistols while boarding the enemy’s vessel. Grant clumsily loads a heavy cannon ball into the cannon’s muzzle and covers his ears before the fuse ignites the gunpowder. A seasoned veteran "limey" takes the lit matchstick, SPIKE HALE, touches the fuse and the cannon fires—a DEAFENING BLAST sends Grant hurtling ten feet to the deck. Spike grunts to himself and shakes his head. He spits out slimy brown tobacco juice on the deck, almost hitting Grant, then steps over and helps lift him to his feet.
“Blimey, thimblerigger, you know damn well not to stand next to the barrel. What’s makin’ you so daft?”
Speechless, Grant can only rub his injured shoulder, now spewing blood.
MORE BATTLE SHOTS…Comrades around Grant lose life and limb but he survives the fight, with only a nasty powder burn to his eyebrows and hair(aside from his bloody bruised shoulder). In the aftermath of the victory, the officer gives Spike orders to unload the silver cargo from the captured Spanish galleon along with his "mate," before the Spanish ship sinks into the bay (the same bay facing Grant’s beach resort). Spike shows Grant the ropes, and Grant catches on quickly. He confides to Spike that he is a Cavendish several generations in the future, but this soars right by his new pal.
"First," says Spike, "you ain't the only bloke to claim kinship with the old man in order to get some of 'is riches. This here is Thomas Cavendish's ship." Second, Spike points out that it's 1587 and the 2000s haven't happened yet, "so your future claim is all balderdash." When Grant reveals his precious coin to Spike, Spike scoffs: "You and any dozen limeys on board 'ave one of them in 'is pocket—nothin' special about that." Spike reaches into a nearby fellow's pouch and produces an identical coin.
Grant settles into the routine of a common seaman as he labors aboard his great-great-great-grandfather's ship, glimpsing the noble gentleman only from a distance. Meanwhile, he hauls the chests of silver treasure ashore from the half-sunken galleon to the very same spot where his resort hotel is located. Other English seamen corral captured Spaniards into crude pens ashore and bark nasty orders. Exhausted, Grant lies down at night to sleep on the beach next to the cargo and... POOF!
...TIME SHIFT: He's back in his own time lying asleep in his resort room. He awakens, feeling the painful powder burn on his face and, equally amazing, the bloody cut on his shoulder (now freshly scabbed over). “What the…?!?!” he asks, astounded.
The remaining movie scenes follow a similar pattern, that of Grant's present-day search for clues to the lost silver treasure intermingled with his return to dramatic moments in pirate history, then back to present day and so forth. Each time the cycle repeats itself, new elements add drama, comedy, suspense, and intrigue. In both stories, his relationship with the librarian Serena develops as she joins him on his "mural time travels." We learn of her Polynesian heritage while she, a medicine woman with healing powers in the 1600s, enacts a key role in helping Grant hide Thomas Cavendish's treasure from native poachers and the Spanish sailors who are plotting a takeover.
All the while, in both eras, a romantic love story develops between them. Grant’s search for tangible lost treasure meets escalating obstacles to success because of Henry Clawbuck’s vile tricks and deceptions. The more Grant probes, the more resistance he meets from strangers who track his every move—his efforts threaten an already existing search by secret rivals who will stop at nothing to block his progress. Yet Grant’s appreciation grows for the many intangible "treasures" of Los Cabos: its enchanting history and enticing future for environmental eco-vacations and tourism, the role he learns to play in prospering Serena’s regional community of local natives, and Serena herself as she grows to love and “treasure” him for his soulful heart and spirit.