It’s exciting to see Shyamalan on such confident footing once more, all these years later.
When I saw the coming attractions trailer for "Under Siege," I had the feeling I'd already seen the movie: Terrorists land on the USS Missouri and occupy the great battleship. The crew is caught off guard and neutralized. But the bad guys overlook one man - the cook - who turns into a one-man army and fights back. The formula is obvious: "Die Hard Goes to Sea." I walked into the screening in a cynical frame of mind, but then a funny thing happened. The movie started working for me.
One reason for that is obvious: The overwhelming and convincing presence of the battleship itself. I learn, by reading the production notes, that director Andrew Davis and his team did not shoot on the real Missouri, but instead used the decomissioned USS Alabama. In many shots the ship appears to be at sea when it's actually docked in Mobile, Ala. They could have fooled me. This movie does a terrific job of making every scene play like a real event on a ship at sea, and that's part of its charm. There's even a walk-on by George Bush, visiting the ship before its fateful final voyage.
The cast is also effective. The star is Steven Seagal, who has cut off his pony tail to play a former Navy hero serving out his last tour as a cook. The reasons for that assignment are complicated (he got in trouble, but the skipper is his friend) but Seagal makes a convincing cook; he can hit a target with a carving knife at 20 paces, and he even looks like he's put on a few pounds on the job, sipping the boulibaisse.
The villains are superb, vile and deliriously insane.