This is one of those movies that is well-made and well-acted, which is too bad, because the overall project is such a massive waste of time, and the overall idea is, frankly, quite stupid, and has in fact been done to death [and better] elsewhere. In fact, I was considering beginning this review with a list of the SIX other works that have done this idea already [and those are just the ones that immediately spring to mind], but doing so would ruin the surprise of the movie for those who may still want to see it.
Melissa "I can't close my mouth" George stars as single mom Jess, who has an autistic son. She is first seen holding her son and telling him "It's just a bad dream." We then get flashes, between the credits, of her cleaning up a spill, answering the door to find no one there, throwing a big bag in the truck of her car, etc. Actually, the first scene of this movie shows us that Ms. George physically CAN shut her mouth, if she concentrates hard, she just rarely ever chooses to. But I will say that the strength of her performance here was enough to get me to forget the issue, rather than spending the entire film waiting to see if she would ever shut it, as I did through 30 Days of Night. I can't help but wonder if she gets sick more often than most people.
Anyway, so we see a CGI seagull floating above Jess' car. Then she arrives at the marina, where she meets cute friend Greg, his brooding hunk assistant Victor, and their guests, couple Downey and Sally, who have brought along friend Heather to set her up with Greg. Since Sally wants to nudge Heather and Greg together, she takes an immediate dislike to Jess. Although it seems to me that if Heather was really interested in attracting Greg, she wouldn't be wearing the dress equivalent of a burlap sack. But maybe it's to spotlight her scintillating personality.
So they're all out on a three-hour tour--A THREE-HOUR TOUR--when suddenly the wind drops away and they're stuck. The Coast Guard doesn't know anything about the weather pattern, or the huge CGI storm barrelling toward them. They hear a garbled distress call. Then the storm comes, with its attendant waves, and they're capsized. Then the storm goes away and it's clear and sunny again! Blame global warming. By the way, Heather got sucked out the window and is gone. Why introduce her at all if she plays absolutely no part? Got me. And I will tell you right up front, just to set expectations appropriately, that there are no shark attacks of any kind, Great White or otherwise.
Then, whaddya know, this giant old-style ocean liner pulls up. It looks abandoned, but they see a figure aboard that slowly backs away from the rail as they approach. They easily board, but can't find anyone. What they do find is a little showcase saying the ship is from 1932 and explaining its name, the Aeolus. He was the father of Sisyphus, who "escaped death" but was doomed to spend eternity rolling a rock uphill, only to have it roll down and start all over again. Now, if you've ever seen a movie before, you know that Greek mythology doesn't just get dropped into the middle of otherwise lowbrow horror films without some BIG-TIME SIGNIFICANCE, and such turns out to be the case here. As the film goes on, a study question you might keep in mind is "Who has the Sisyphean task?" That is, aside from the filmmakers, and YOU for pointlessly watching this thing.
SPOILERS > > >
So they hear a clank and when they go to investigate--they find Jess' car keys! That's weird. Then they hear water running in room 237 [reference to The Shining] and there's a message written in blood on the mirror that says "Go To Theater." Boy, Broadway will really do just about anything to drum up business these days, huh? Jess goes to the ballroom, where Victor attacks her, but she subdues him by sticking her finger in the hole at the back of his head. Then she heads to the theater, where Greg is dying of a bullet wound. Sally tells Jess that SHE just told them to go to the theater, though Jess remembers no such thing. Then a masked gunman appears in the balcony and blows away everyone but Jess. 37 minutes in, and she's already the only one left alive. Hmm, where could this thing be going? At this point, I'm still intrigued.
Jess goes after the gunman and makes it to the rail, where it turns out to be a gunPERSON [I did flagellate myself for assuming it was a man, btw] who tells Jess to "Kill them all--it's the only way to get home," before falling into the sea. Then a few seconds later--why, it's their capsized boat, pulling up alongside, and it has Jess on it! SHE was the person they saw at the rail when they approached earlier. At this point I was like "Oh yeah, like Timecrimes." So the new group of the old characters gets on and our survivor Jess walks around listening to all the scenes we saw on the first go-round, including the Sysiphus explanation [get your highlighters ready!], while you're at home thinking "Oh okay, this is going to be like that episode of Star Trek: Next Generation where the Enterprise kept blowing up because they were in some time loop," and soon after you start to think "OH shit, this better not be the umpteenth iteration of Carnival of Souls, because that would really piss me off."
So she runs into Victor, who had just been chillin' with the OTHER Jess, and inadvertently kills him [they shouldn't leave those skull-puncturing posts around like that!], then eventually ends up donning a union suit and mask and becoming the masked gunPERSON we saw earlier. In here are a lot of other little details, like finding numerous copies of the same note, that indicate that we've already been through this pattern several times already, which is good for a tiny jolt. Then we find out that Sally was the distress call they got before they landed. Then she tries various things to break the pattern [I am kindly compressing a lot of things that just take up time in the second half], and finally ends up falling off the ship and washing up on shore, why, just minutes from her home!
She goes home and we find out SHE was the one who rang the doorbell and ran away [she should totally toilet-paper her own trees next]. She sees inside and see that she beats her Autistic son. Then she goes in--and kills herself! Meaning she kills the one that was home when she called. Then she takes the kid and gets in the car [now we start to see a lot of the little bits that were left out during the credits--like that the bag she packed has a body in it. She's driving when they hit a seagull. When she throws it on the beach, there are a pile of rotting seagulls, indicating that she's been through this pattern several times already. Then she gets in a horrible car accident, meets a mysterious cab driver who takes her to the ship, and we begin all over again. Mysterious and ooky.
< < < SPOILERS END
By the time this movie was over, I was FUCKING PISSED. Look, writer / director Christopher Smith, don't waste my fucking time, okay? If you have absolutely nothing to say, then don't fucking say it.
If you have seen Carnival of Souls, or that Swedish sorta-remake [what was that called?], or Timecrimes, or Siesta, or that one episode of Star Trek: TNG where the Enterprise blows up over and over, then you already know what happens here, and you have placed out of watching this film! And if you HAVE seen Carnival of Souls, you know that it's a good idea--but an idea you really don't want to sit through more than once, because it also means that everything you were just duped into paying attention to was all a total waste and meant fucking nothing.
I went on IMDb and looked at the message boards for people expounding their interpretations of this film and, they did indeed have many theories, as well as how you need to watch it several times to figure it out [HA!]. They say that there are about three different Jesses, and I'll bet you $10 they chase each other around in what you might call a... TRIANGLE. You also remember the heavy-handed call out of mythology with Sysiphus cheating death by having to perform his pointless task over and over and over... well, there ya are. To add insult to injury, the director is quoted by one of the guys on the boards as directly saying that there IS no answer to the film, it's just whatever you make of it.
So this ends up being one of those rare movies that make me want to actually find the director and HURT HIM, so imagine my horror at learning that he is also the director of a movie I particularly loved, Severance. But he didn't write that one, so let's just say I vow never to see another movie he wrote and directed. He's on the DVD extras saying that his prodicer suggested a cruise ship for his next film, and he had the flash of someone on the ship seeing themselves on an approaching ship, and wrote the entire movie from there. Well dude, maybe the very first idea that pops into your head isn't necessarily the BEST idea. And next time, why don't you try to recall that there's an AUDIENCE who will presumably be watching your film--if you continue to be lucky--and you might want to think about THEM a little, tiny bit, and whether the shit you're pushing out is worth them spending their 90 minutes watching, or if it's just essentially your masturbation. Speaking of, there's a reason people masturbate in private, douche.
Jesus, I just don't have one nice thing to say about this movie.
If you like wasting time on well-worn stories you've already seen done to death.