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In the spirit of full disclosure I should tell you up front that I am madly in love with Julianna Margulies. I watched E.R. every week, no matter how ridiculously preachy it got, just to see her. Will this impair my movie judgment? Let's find out.
GHOST SHIP was directed by Steve Beck (THIR13EN GHOSTS) and written by Mark Hanlon and John Pogue (THE SKULLS). The story opens aboard a very upscale cruise ship. We find out later that the year we are seeing here is 1962. It's a pleasant evening and the passengers on this Italian liner are enjoying the beautiful singing voice of Francesca (Francesca Rettondini). A big dance is being held in the ballroom and a smaller dance is taking place on deck. It looks like everyone is having a good time.
Then something so horrible happens that I'm not even going to describe it. I want you to have the full impact when you see one of the goriest moments I've experienced in quite a while.
The one person who stands out in this segment is a young girl named Katie (Emily Browning: DARKNESS FALLS). We'll meet her again later.
Jump to the present day. The crew of the tugboat Arctic Warrior is in trouble. The derelict ship theyre trying to haul back to port (and collect salvage on) is sinking and may take them with it. Only quick action by Epps (Julianna Margulies: OUT FOR JUSTICE), Dodge (Ron Eldard: THE LAST SUPPER, BLACK HAWK DOWN) and Munder (Karl Urban: THE LORD OF THE RINGS, DOOM) save the day.* Captain Murphy (Gabriel Byrne: STIGMATA, END OF DAYS), steersman Greer (Isaiah Washington) and engineer Santos (Alex Dimitriades) guide the ship into an Alaskan port.
Weirdness begins right away as the ship seems to fade in and out on radar and then is suddenly right in front of them, looming out of the nighttime Arctic Ocean. Murphy immediately recognizes the name Antonina Graza as a cruise ship that disappeared forty years ago, but that was off the coast of Labrador, thousands of miles away in a different ocean. How did it get here?
They get on board the rusted hulk and go to work. While exploring Epps sees (or thinks she sees) the same young girl we met at the beginning of the movie, wearing the same white party dress. She shares this sighting with Jack, who is doing his best to fit in with this tightly knit group of friends.
More clues of things being not quite right show up. Among the debris the crew finds a digital watch, implying they aren't the first visitors the ship has had in the last 40 years.
And in the empty swimming pool below decks Epps finds lines of bullet holes, as though automatic fire stitched the walls. What the hell happened here?
We do find out, eventually, and when we do it's shown in a very cool way. The horrible event we saw take place on the ship at the beginning of the movie turned out to be just one of many things that happened that night. And that are happening again.
Of course, this movies earns an
!!!UNFAIR RACIAL CLICHÉ ALERT!!!:
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Ghosts are fantasy so I'll skip the SCIENCE MOMENT. But I will point out that all this is supposed to be taking place in the Bering Straight, just a loud shout away from the North Pole, and yet it's not even cold enough to see your breath. Global warming hasn't had anywhere near that kind of effect. Falling in the water here should be bone chilling and quickly fatal, yet several characters who spend time in the water show no ill effects.
But that's my only quibble. This is a straightforward horror story, with ghosts and something worse. It's internally consistent and keeps moving. And Ms. Margulies achieved enough suspension of disbelief that I wasnt distracted by my feelings for her. I give it three shriek girls.
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