Ghost Ship Movie Review

Ghost Ship opens with one of the most gruesome, gratuitous, and swiftest slaughters in recent memory. Without warning, dozens of passengers aboard a luxurious Italian luxury liner are sliced in half by a makeshift wire device running from the bow of the ship to the stern. The effect - and the ensuing bloody panic - is pretty cool, even if I still can't quite figure out how it worked. The entire sequence doesn't justify you paying to see Ship, but it does mean you should arrive on time if indeed you opt to go.

Asking the rest of the film to live up to such a ghastly opening is like asking a rinky-dink tugboat to tow a mammoth ocean liner across the ocean. Ironically, that's exactly what Ghost Ship does. Sean Murphy (Gabriel Byrne) owns the tugboat in question, and he employs "the best damn salvage crew in the business." In reality, they're a tough-talking, hard-drinking cast of carefully handpicked racial stereotypes, from an African-American first mate (Isaiah Washington) to a Mexican engineer (Alex Dimitriades) to an Italian salvage team leader (Julianna Margulies), who's a female, to boot.

They also have a new job. A pilot (Desmond Harrington) approaches the crew with photos of an abandoned ship he spotted drifting in the Bering Strait. After a hasty setup peppered with the perfect amount of adolescent schoolyard dialogue, Murphy and his crew venture off to sea to retrieve what could be a fortune in boat scraps. What they find is a haunted vessel carting around the souls of the slaughtered passengers. The ghosts have an agenda, and Murphy and his crew have a bit more on their plate than anticipated.

Ghost Ship goes for the gore, but skimps on the scares. Bloated bodies and severed heads float through swimming pools of blood, but the leap-from-your-seat factor is decidedly dialed down. If you can handle doors opening and closing on their own, you can sail through this Ship with ease.

As the hardass, whiskey-slugging, crusty old sea captain Murphy, Byrne is ... well, he's a crusty old hardass. He and the rest of the cast, including Margulies and Ron Eldard, do what they can with their thin profiles. But these people are never characters, they're sitting ducks. Feisty ducks with attitude and more than a hint of greed, but ducks all the same. I will admit that the eclectic cast of minorities kept me guessing which bit player would bite the dust first. That's always a fun way to pass the time during these generic thrillers.

The screenplay, credited to Mark Hanlon and John Pogue, tips its hand a bit earlier than necessary. Modern touches found onboard the boat imply that others have boarded the ship since it first disappeared in 1962. Murphy is even handed the final piece of the puzzle about halfway through the movie, removing the suspense for the rest of us.

The ship itself is a decent, if decrepit, set piece that calls to mind James Cameron's old Titanic sets on more than one occasion. Cinematographer Gale Tattersall's images are routinely dark and dank, but that's to be expected from a film that takes place in the middle of the ocean in the dead of night. British-born Tattersall occasionally intersperses some backlit daytime shots that create portrait-quality images of the grand ocean liner. Mainly they suggest he longs to be back in the Mother Country shooting a more artsy picture on the rolling hills of England as opposed to lensing a gory horror flick on a confined soundstage. Perhaps he should send a resume and reel over to the Merchant-Ivory offices.

Ship isn't awful. The explanations are rushed (because they're illogical) and the resolutions are poor. But it's gory when it needs to be, and it knows not to overstay its welcome. The starboard side is left swinging open for a sequel, in case the kiddies decide that Ghost Ship rocks as hard as its market-tested techno-metal soundtrack. There's just no accounting for taste these days.

The DVD includes a few behind-the-scenes featurettes, mainly focusing on the film's creepy special effects. If for some reason you're enthralled by Mudvayne, well, a music video from the band is also on the disc.

Why does mommy look so butch?


Ghost Ship Rating

" Weak "

Rating: R, 2002


More Julianna Margulies

Who Won At 2014 Television Critics Association Awards & What Can The Results Tell Us About The Emmys?

The 30th Television Critics Association Awards (TCAs) was held on Saturday (19th July). The ceremony was held at the Beverly Hills Hilton in Los Angeles....

'The Good Wife' Writers Hit Viewers With Murder In First Degree

Viewers of CBS' The Good Wife have been left distraught after the show's writers brutally murdered one of the main characters. This time though the...

Golden Globes 2014 Celebrates New Shows Over The Old as Television Nominations are Revealed

The nominations for the 2014 Golden Globe Awards were revealed this week and although there were few surprises in the movie nominations; in the television...

Jennifer Hudson Talks Movies At The GLWD 2013 Golden Heart Awards - Part 3

Singer/ actress Jennifer Hudson talks to an interviewer on the red carpet at the God's Love We Deliver 2013 Golden Heart Awards in New York....


Olivia Munn In Gorgeous Yellow For The GLWD 2013 Golden Heart Awards - Part 2

'Magic Mike' star Olivia Munn definitely stole the show in an eye-catching yellow fishtail dress with studs dotted down the seams at the God's Love...

Julianna Margulies On How Weiner's Weiner Breathed Life Into 'The Good Wife'

Julianna Margulies is appreciative of Anthony Weiner's sexual tweets, in a way. The actress says the New York City mayoral hopeful has given an unexpected...

David Chase And Aida Turturro Are Among Funeral Goers At The Service For James Gandolfini - Part 2

Stars turned out in their hundreds at the funeral of 'Sopranos' star James Gandolfini. Among them were the show's creator David Chase, his onscreen sister...

Stand Up Guys Movie Review

Frankly, if you put Al Pacino, Christopher Walken and Alan Arkin in your movie, you don't really need to worry about the script: we'd happily...