Titanic (1997)

Film review: Titanic (1997), directed by James Cameron

Sunday marks the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the RMS Titanic, so I figured it would be the perfect time to review this film, especially since it’s now hit our cinema screens again … in 3D.

When this film first came out, I only went to see it because I was so sick of hearing about it all the time, and that bloody Céline Dion song on repeat on the radio was driving my 14-year-old self nuts. So, I figured if I couldn’t beat ’em, I ought to join ’em. Felt like I was about to burst into tears during the opening credits.

When I came home from the cinema and my mum asked me if the film was good, I said yup, it was very good. Perhaps not the best one I’d ever seen, but y’know, pretty good. She asked what the best film I had ever seen was, and I was stumped, because … actually, this might be it.

So, cue several viewings (I bought the VHS when it came out, which I had never done before) and many years later, I decided to watch it on TV when it was on, so I could review it. This is it.

Brock Lovett (Bill Paxton) and his crew is out on the Atlantic hunting for treasure – there’s a rumour about a big, blue diamond being aboard the sunken RMS Titanic, but the safe turns out to be empty. The only thing in it are some drawings of a naked young lady. Seeing the drawing in a report on TV, an old woman (Gloria Stuart), asks to be taken aboard the ship, because she has news of the diamond. She’s the naked lady on the drawing …

Her maiden name was Rose Dawson, their research shows, but there was no such name on the list of Titanic‘s survivors. The old lady sees the wreck footage and starts to tell the crew her story.

Young Rose DeWitt Bukater (Kate Winslet) was not just a beauty back in the day, she was an upper class girl whose mother (Frances Fisher) is struggling to keep their status in society, which is why Rose is (more or less) forced into an engagement with rich but arrogant and cold Cal Hockley (Billy Zane). Rose is so thrilled about her life that she decides to jump off the back of the ship, but the handsome Jack Dawson (Leonardo DiCaprio) stops her.

Jack won his third class tickets in a card game shortly before casting off from Southampton, and when Rose is discovered with him, wrong conclusions are drawn, but Rose insists he’s a hero. And so begins their love story. If only the ship didn’t hit that iceberg half-way through the film …

Also stars Kathy Bathes as the “unsinkable” Molly Brown, Victor Garber as Thomas Andrews (the ship’s architect) and Jonathan Hyde as the White Star Line’s Bruce Ismay.

There are certain things that will set off my waterworks. Animals dying is one of them. Another is historical accounts of innocent people dying through no fault of their own, but through other people’s greed or stupid stubbornness. The second is very specific, though – I’m talking about the shootings at Croke Park in Michael Collins and … the 1500-odd people going down with the Titanic. Especially heartbreaking (and not quite historically accurate) in this film is the third class passengers being locked in as the ship is taking in water. The issue here is how they can’t get away. Drowning in an ice cold ocean is bad enough – being trapped and unable to get to the surface … it’s like a hand grips my heart and I find it difficult to breathe.

Let’s be honest – for those who have seen the film, you know the casualties (one in particular), and that casualty is meant to be the big tear-jerker. I’m more or less indifferent to it. The other 1500 men, women and children dying, that’s what gets me. Every time. So many things that could have made the Titanic‘s maiden voyage nothing more than a footnote in history, and yet … because of a fair few different factors, it’s instead gone down as the biggest maritime disaster in history.

When it comes to the film itself, some lines are so cheesy I facepalmed. The CGI is still impressive, has aged quite well, although in parts, I was thinking it would’ve been done better today. Don’t remember specific examples, though. The acting is good, and while I’m not in love with the Rose/Jack love story, it does what it says on the tin.

The biggest thing about it, though, is how well it can bring out emotions, and on such a grand scale too. Very impressive indeed. If you’ve not seen the film, it’s well worth a watch. Just make sure you know what you’re letting yourself in for – bring a healthy amount of tissues. There are so many lives lost that it can make for a very painful and tearful watch.

And while there are cheesy parts and being predictable and not entirely historically accurate, I still think it’s a fantastic achievement, and it still packs a punch, so many years – and viewings – later.

5 out of 5 icebergs.

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