POSEIDON

Directed by Wolfgang Petersen. USA. 2006.


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There are certain genres that certain directors are suited to.  Ford had westerns, Chaplin had comedies and De Mille had epics.  Wolfgang Petersen is not especially good at any particular genre, in fact he is adept at thrillers, historical epics and crime movies but put him in charge of a film surrounded by water and you get the best of his attention and the best results. 

Resurrecting a classic from the 1970s disaster cycle of films, we have a disaster film for the post-9/11 world which is reliant on that old familiar terrorist - mother nature.  In the wake of the Asian tsunami, Hurricane Katrina and the most recent Indonesian earthquake the film is both reflective and prophetic of the current cultural climate.  While we continue to forward ourselves with better technology the elements can reduce them to rubble, very similar to the overall message of Titanic. 

Petersen takes one of the most celebrated disaster films The Poseidon Adventure (1972) as the blueprint and follows the same scenario.  It is New Year's Eve on the 20 story tall boat Poseidon as it crosses the Atlantic towards New York, when on the stroke of midnight a rogue wave hits the ship and capsizes it killing most of the passengers and crew.  A small number are alive in an air bubble in the main ballroom, some stay and some choose to go and find there own way out.  This group we follow a bunch of people joined by the same wish to survive and all from different backgrounds.  A professional gambler, Dylan, who works well on his own; Maggie, the single mum he has taken a shine to and the son, Conor, he has befriended; Richard, a near-suicidal gay man; Robert Ramsey, the former mayor of New York; his daughter, Jennifer and boyfriend, Christian; Elena, a stowaway and the waiter, Valentin, who got her on board.  The group of differing age, gender, culture and race is an interesting window on the world of people co-existing together despite superficial differences and working together for the same result. 

The film also follows a strange plot device reminiscent of the stalker genre in that it kills off the odd character throughout the hunt for safety in gruesome surroundings but necessary to the plot to extend the need to survive and also indicate that it is not only water that might kill these people. 

The dialogue can be clunky but there are some good lines such as when the mayor's daughter tells everyone else at his poker table what it is he is attempting to bluff with and when they enter the vent to carry on their trek and the boyfriend goes in after the mayor, 'Well I might as well let him kick me in the head'.  But as with any disaster film if you have any sort of bad script you need a credible cast to convey the weight of the moment on to celluloid and Petersen has been lucky to get a cast such as Josh Lucas, Kurt Russell and Richard Dreyfuss. 

The special effects and set designs are impeccable as is the stunt work, in particular one death-defying leap by Lucas into a fiery pit of water.  The work of everyone behind the camera is the equal of those in front of it, making it one of the more pleasurable viewing experiences of the year.  Pleasurable in the sense that the film only lasts just over an hour and a half, surprising but all the more credit for a tighter script than some movies would allow.  You fleetingly meet the cast in the first fifteen minutes and then the boat is hit by the wave, you know the characters minimally and as they attempt to survive you get to them better and so attach to them more. 

A good viewing experience if you are not scared of boats, water, drowning, claustrophobia, propellers or a good ensemble cast. 

Cast

Kurt Russell    Robert Ramsey

Josh Lucas    Dylan Johns

Richard Dreyfuss   Richard Nelson

Jacinda Barrett   Maggie James

Emmy Rossum   Jennifer Ramsey

Mike Vogel    Christian

Mia Maestro    Elena

Jimmy Bennett   Conor James

Freddy Rodriguez   Valentin 

*******

I viewed this film at the bfi IMAX cinema in Waterloo, SE1 and it goes on general release as well as an extended run at the IMAX from the 1st June.  

Ticket prices are Adults £12.00, Children (up to and including 14) £8.00, Concessions £9.75.  The reduced rate for groups of 10 people or more is Adults £11.00, Children £7.00 and concessions £8.75.

For information and showtimes call 0870 787 2525 or visit:

www.bfi.org.uk/imax
 

Jamie Garwood
 
 
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