R E V I E W   B Y   R I C H   C L I N E dir Wolfgang Petersen
scr Mark Protosevich
with Josh Lucas, Kurt Russell, Richard Dreyfuss, Emmy Rossum, Mike Vogel, Jacinda Barrett, Jimmy Bennett, Mía Maestro, Freddy Rodríguez, Kevin Dillon, Andre Braugher, Stacy Ferguson
release US 12.May.06, UK 1.Jun.06
06/US Warners 1h39

Which way is up? Vogel and Rossum

lucas russell dreyfuss

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Poseidon The endless stream of remakes continues with this new version of 1972's The Poseidon Adventure. Fortunately, the filmmakers know what they're doing, and have fun taking us along for the ride.

It's New Year's Eve on the luxury liner Poseidon, when a sudden "rogue wave" (huh?) capsizes the ship, leaving a handful of scrappy survivors struggling to reach propeller openings in the hull. In the inverted ballroom are the gambler (Lucas) who used to be in the Navy, the former firefighter (Russell) who used to be New York's mayor, the suicidal loner (Dreyfuss), a panicking mother (Barrett) with her cute son (Bennett), and a cook (Rodriguez) who knows a way through the galley. Joining them from the disco inferno are the firefighter's horny daughter (Rossum) and her boyfriend (Vogel), a stowaway Latina (Maestro) and Lucky Larry (Dillon).

The filmmakers don't bother with authenticity (mobile phones in the open sea?) or proper characterisation. Each person is merely shifty or heroic or naïve or stupid. Some will obviously die or survive, others surprise us. And having characters distinct from the original film avoids comparisons, although Russell and Lucas generate some Gene Hackman-Ernest Borgnine alpha-male bickering. And the silliest thing is that everyone knows more about the ocean and the ship than the captain (Braugher).

No, the filmmakers just get on with the action and keep things cracking from one perilous sequence to the next. Each set piece is brilliantly conceived to appeal to a different phobia; we of course have water and fire (usually the water is on fire!), plus intense claustrophobia and dizzying heights. There are also dead bodies littered everywhere, which adds an unsettling, macabre tone that the filmmakers seize on by putting the survivors in as much peril as possible.

Peterson clearly has water fixation (see also Das Boot and The Perfect Storm), and he also knows how to crank up the suspense without being pretentious about it. The cast and crew wimp out at the end with all the icky sentimentality and corny heroism. With an Oscar-calibre cast replaced by Oscar-calibre effects, it's not even a patch on the original. But it's this summer's guilty pleasure.

cert 12 violence, suspense, language 12.May.06

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© 2006 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall