Pace and Casting Keeps Poseidon Afloat

Simplicity is an increasing fad in Hollywood these days. People are gravitating to popcorn moments: those times when you can put your feet up on the seat in front of you (until the cracked-voice, pimpled usher asks you otherwise) and enjoy a movie. Don’t think too hard, just let the movie drive itself.

Poseidon is at the head of what could turn out to be the summer of no-brainers. Director Wolfgang Peterson (“Troy”, “The Perfect Storm”) keeps things brisk from the start, with gorgeous shots of the doomed ocean liner that sweep in to introduce Josh Lucas’ Dillon Johns, a fend-for-yourself kind of gambler. Peterson never slows down, either. Within the first half hour of the film, the viewer knows everything they need to know about the characters they’ll be traveling with, and is ready to see who lives, who dies, and just what kind of wet t-shirt contest this is anyway.

The film progresses in much the same way. The viewer has a decent idea of what lies ahead: explosions, blocked corridors, rising water and dancing electrical wires, but as always, it’s about the how. And therein lies the fun of the movie. Sometimes their escape paths are glaringly obvious, sometimes their obvious, but blocked. A few times their escapes are even tongue-in-cheek, but at the end of the day, it’s those “that was a little too much” moments that make a film like this great.

For their part, the cast does a great job, as well. Lucas and Russell are both convincing and heroic as they lead their crew up (well, down) the boat, even if Lucas shouldn’t care and Russell cares too much. Richard Dreyfuss’ gay architect is downright lovable, and much of the heart of the crew relies on him. Emmy Rossum and Mike Vogel do well keeping their love story alive amidst death and plenty of explosions, and Jacinda Barrett’s single mom raises the stakes with her vulnerability and her son’s youth. The players were well-cast for this epic, adding just the right amount of heart and strength to the characters.

As blockbuster season gets underway, the popcorn moments should come out in force, and as Peterson’s swift, enjoyable boat film proves, big-budget plotlines don’t have to be hollow to get their audience involved.

“Poseidon” – 4 out of 5 stars

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