Friday, May 26, 2006
In this remake of the 1972 disaster classic The Poseidon Adventure (1972), a luxury ocean liner capsizes from a colossal tidal wave, leaving its survivors to fend for themselves as they find a way out.
From Wolfgang Petersen's majestic 360-degree pan of the enormous modern-day luxury cruise ship that will be capsized by a 150-foot tidal wave to his deliberately caliginous closing shot, Poseidon is a nerve-wracking thrill ride. All fears of the film being yet another abysmal Hollywood remake are waved aside as character traits are economically mapped out in the moments before the film's pivotal New Year's Eve disaster. Mark Protosevich's better-than-average script fits like a hand-in-glove with Petersen's (Das Boot) masterful detailed direction emphasizing the claustrophobic debris-filled environment that a handful of characters risk, climbing toward the ship's overturned hull, in hopes of escaping before it sinks. The extraordinary thing about the movie is its deductive ability to capture the selfish and selfless duality of its survivors as a universal quality that applies to anyone in a desperate situation.
Professional gambler Dylan Johns (Josh Lucas) wins a significant hand of poker against former New York Mayor Robert Ramsey (well played by Kurt Russell) in the ship's Main Ballroom. Ramsey's intractable daughter Jennifer (Emmy Rossum) has just gotten secretly engaged to her boyfriend Christian (Mike Vogel) even as Richard Nelson (Richard Dreyfuss), a recently jilted gay architect, contemplates suicide seconds before witnessing the vast approaching tidal wave. In a matter of seconds the colossal swell hits the ship broadside, and the movie takes on a nightmare quality. Hundreds of lives are instantaneously lost to millions of gallons of water hitting the boat in fearsome scenes that push you back in your chair. Electrical fires spark, beams fall, and an elevator ejects its passenger as chaos reigns and death pervades.
Composer Klaus Badelt's pitch-perfect score works like an invisible gear within the film's clockwork to increase its at times nearly unbearable tension. Aside from making James Cameron's Titanic look like it was filmed in a bathtub, Wolfgang Petersen elevates the disaster movie genre by giving it a solid sense of how all disasters are created equal in human terms. It might not be as gripping as Das Boot, but it is intensely entertaining and fulfilling.