The name says it all; both budget-wise and movie-wise. The
ship was called "Titanic", but the movie could easily have been
called "Blockbuster". Director James Cameron has left no
block of ice unturned in creating this fantastic and captivating
voyage that contains many more than a few thrills along the
way. Those involved in various facets of the production,
ranging from the writers of historical documents about the ship
to the actors and crew to survivors of family from that era,
have remarked upon how struck they were either when
viewing the life-sized sets or the finished film itself. And
therein lies perhaps the greatest magic of the movie: the fact
that while watching it, the viewer is transported to another time
and place in a way which unexpectedly makes a famous
moment in history become a startling and fierce reality.
Buying a ticket to this movie is as close as any of us will ever
get, or want to get, to buying a ticket to board the real Titanic
(even those who could have afforded the real thing).
Copyright (c) Twentieth Century Fox. All rights reserved.
Photo: Merie W. Wallace.
The cleverly constructed script manages early on to destroy
any preconceptions the viewer may have. Starting off with a
contemporary image of the search for the lost vessel, familiar
both in attempt and technique to a modern eye, we are
shaken from our historical perspective. The utilization of the
Frazier lens system makes this voyage of image transitions
and cross fades between present and past glory days an
amazing experience to behold. While we get our sea feet and
understand what is taking place before our very eyes, we
delay any further expectation of what is yet to come. Director
Cameron, as a matter of fact, had decided he would not
pursue the project unless he could film the actual remains of
the Titanic himself and was eventually able to make 12 dives
to the wreck site with two submersibles after solving the
logistical problems of creating a camera that could withstand
pressures and temperatures experienced at a depth that had
never been filmed before. The images and overlapping
crossfades of the final film call up the ghosts from the past.
In an extremely clever move, is computer simulation reveals
exactly what occurred to the ship on that fateful April day in
1912. Once this has been established, the foundation has
been laid for an easy comprehension of what happens when
we ourselves, as viewers, reach the point when the disaster
begins. 1,500 people died in icy North Atlantic waters on that
day and this film will show you exactly what that means. As the
veritable **** begins hitting the propeller, so to speak,
everyone starts getting sucked into the action. Suddenly the
Titanic is no longer an event on a written page, but a horrifying
moment in real time.
Two binding elements continue to shift us back and forth while
managing to keep equal interest sufficiently attached to each.
One is the relationship between the past and present of the
ship and the second is the relationship between the people on
board and their extended effect upon others in the present.
Both are historically based, but the second is reinforced by
confrontation through the medium of the movie. As we watch,
the people on board are able to bring the message home.
One begins to wonder, while watching, if the story unraveling
is based upon actual fact, so impressive and convincing are
the details. The central love story, however, is a work of
fiction, which in no way lessens its charm. A simple story of
an engaged couple and a free willed, free-wheeling boy from
steerage. Rose DeWitt Bukater (Kate Winslet) is not
overjoyed about her approaching marriage to the handsome,
but heartless and very rich Cal Hockley (Billy Zane) and is
rescued from a fate worse than death (?) by the equally, but
differently handsome and, unfortunately, poor Jack Dawson
(Leonardo DiCaprio). Jack spots her immediately and finally
finds an opportunity to meet her when she contemplates
jumping ship. Saving the moment, little does he know what
lies in store. Nevertheless, love finds a way to make their time
together happy and meaningful. (After all, they still have five
days.) The passenger list is also sprinkled with real
characters from the pages of history such as the notorious
Molly Brown (Kathy Bates), Captain E.J. Smith (Bernard Hill),
the White Star Line managing director Bruce Ismay (Jonathan
Hyde) as well as the unforgettable master shipbuilder and
primary architect of the Titanic, Thomas Andrews (Victor
Garber). The acting is superb, but the ship remains the star.
Most noticeable, fascinating, and captivating is the actress
Gloria Stuart, who plays the modern day Rose, with a silken
voice and a magic presence. She ties together the past and
present, and it is with a wonderful hint of humor that we see
the fortune hunters enraptured by her words. She is that
wonderful thing called a "storyteller" that people have long
since forgotten. The 87-year-old actress, who would spend
two hours each day being aged by make-up artists, actively
pursued her career in the 1930's when she appeared in such
classics as Busby Berkeley's "Goldiggers of 1935," John
Ford's "Air Mail," and that classic horror film "The Old Dark
Director Cameron has undoubtedly succeeded in reaching his
objective, which he tells us is, "to show not only the dramatic
death of this infamous ship, but her brief and glorious life as
well. To capture the beauty, exuberance, optimism and hope
of Titanic , her passengers and crew and, in the process of
baring the dark side of humanity underlying this tragedy,
celebrate the limitless potential of the human spirit. For Titanic
is not just a cautionary tale - a myth, a parable, a metaphor for
the ills of mankind. It is also a story of faith, courage, sacrifice
and, above all else, love."
The score by James Horner has the haunting quality of an
Irish lullaby or dirge and, although captivating from beginning
to end, will probably be most notably remembered by the song
"My Heart Will Go On" as performed by Celine Dion.
Functioning as a leitmotif throughout the film, the main theme
is reflected and accommodated by the film's structure which
builds, develops, turns, and grows in a cinematically
A three hour movie can often be too long to fulfill an
audience's expectations; this film manages to sustain the
audience's attention with panache. Undoubtedly the kind of
film Americans especially love, filled with excitement, thrills,
and tears, it is bound to find its following around the world.
Does this make "Titanic" unsinkable? Looks like it.
Try to see it before it starts picking up all those Oscars.
A DON'T MISS
What a way to go!
© 1994-2006 The Green Hartnett