Poseidon a neat package
By Lady Liberty
** 1/2 ouf of ****
I vaguely remember seeing the 1972 version of this movie and not being particularly impressed (I much preferred the book). As a result, I'll confess to wondering what possessed a studio to choose it for an update. But realizing that special effects capabilities have grown exponentially since then — well, and the fact that little else was opening this weekend — I thought I'd take a look.
Poseidon was the Greek god of the sea, and is thus a fitting name for a huge and luxurious ocean liner. She's on a New Year's cruise when the unexpected occurs at the height of the revelry: a rogue wave overtakes and capsizes her. Among those celebrating in the ship's ballroom and who survive the initial impact are Dylan Johns (Josh Lucas), an itinerant gambler, and Robert Ramsey (Kurt Russell), a former fireman and the ex-mayor of New York City.
While the ship's captain (Andre Braugher) tries to calm the hysterical survivors, Dylan is focused on nothing but getting out of the ship he knows is bound to sink. Ramsey, meanwhile, is more worried about his daughter, Jennifer (Emmy Rossum) and her boyfriend, Christian (Mike Vogel) who were ringing in the New Year one floor down from the ballroom in the ship's disco.
Though Ramsey and Dylan met earlier in the evening as adversaries over a high stakes game of poker, they find themselves working together to rescue a young child, Conor (Jimmy Bennett) and calm his mother, Maggie (Jacinda Barrett). Once Maggie discovers that Dylan has a vague plan to escape the doomed ship, she demands to accompany him. Ramsey joins them with his own parallel agenda, as does the broken-hearted Nelson (Richard Dreyfuss), who is all but suicidal until his life is threatened by the ship's mishap.
With guidance from a ship's waiter, the small troupe defies the captain's orders to stay put and wait for rescue, and they begin their journey on the topsy turvy ship to reach the bottom by climbing up. The group faces terrible dangers from many sources ranging from shifting objects to broken electrical and gas lines, but they finally reach the disco to discover a scene of carnage there. The few survivors, however, do include Jennifer and an injured Christian as well as a young Hispanic woman named Elena (Mia Maestro).
With a growing sense of urgency, the group now begins its climb in earnest, but they find their best laid plans thwarted at virtually every turn. It's in the face of their fears and the imminent threat of death, however, that some in the group find their finest moments. And as the great ship endures her death spasms, there are those who will, despite their courage or their need, die with her.
Josh Lucas is always fun to watch simply because he's so good at being a lovable rogue. In Poseidon, he's all that, but he also shows the ability to convey true courage which isn't the lack of fear, but rather the ability to act despite being afraid. He's also got a future as an action star if he wants one — a few of his stunts are impressive to say the least! Kurt Russell is aging very well, showing a mature authority and capability here without pretending the physicality of a younger man.
Emmy Rossum who was so brilliant in The Phantom of the Opera is fine here and so is Mike Vogel; Jacinda Barrett is completely convincing as the near hysterical young mother, though Jimmy Bennett could have been a bit less strident. Richard Dreyfuss, who has so often been cast as a slightly bumbling every man, is in fine form as the fussy Nelson. Mia Maestro is particularly effective. Her fears became my own despite the fact I'm not claustrophobic, and there were moments where I was literally short of breath as I watched her dragged (almost literally) kicking and screaming to the next challenge by her fellows.
The script is, of course, somewhat predictable. Like Titanic, we all know what's going to happen. But reading the book or seeing the 1972 version (entitled The Poseidon Adventure) won't spoil this remake for you: The characters are all new as are their challenges, so you'll find the who-lives-and-who-dies suspense well in place. Though the characters aren't as developed as some of us might like them to be (okay, as I might like them to be), the fact that the movie is relatively short (98 minutes) and the action is non-stop actually make the film better in its genre.
Director Wolfgang Peterson has a moderately uneven past, but with Troy (which I thought was a better effort than some critics did), The Perfect Storm, and Air Force One on his résumé, there's some unquestionable skill and experience he's able to lend to Poseidon; he moves things right along, and his tight edits and the focus on the terror of individuals is just terrific for adding to the overall effect of the movie. It probably goes without saying, but lest you wonder I'll say it anyway: yes, the special effects are awesome, and some of the stunts are pretty amazing, too.
Poseidon is probably not everything the commercials and trailers would have you believe that it is, but it's pretty good none-the-less. If you want action, suspense, special effects, and human drama all rolled up into one neat hour-and-a-half long package, well, Poseidon will do the job for you. And while you may not relive moments of the film in your mind in the days to come, you'll almost certainly enjoy the ride as long as it lasts.
FAMILY SUITABILITY: Poseidon is rated PG-13 for "intense prolonged sequences of disaster and peril." There are also some rather creative ways various people meet their deaths, and though it's typically not graphic, a few of them are pretty awful. As a result, I don't recommend this movie for kids under the age of 13 or 14 or so. But if the rest of you are just looking for a good time, Poseidon could fit your plans to a T.
Lady Liberty, a senior writer for ESR, is a graphic designer and pro-freedom activist currently residing in the Midwest. More of her writings and other political and educational information is available on her web site, Lady Liberty's Constitution Clearing House, at http://www.ladylibrty.com. E-mail Lady Liberty at firstname.lastname@example.org.