Film #13 on the 100 Movies Bucket List: Titanic
Titanic is a rather divisive film. There are many that absolutely love it, the creators of this list among them I don’t doubt. And then there are those that can’t stand it, despite it’s 11 Oscar wins. When it was first released, Titanic’s popularity was immense and it was all the rage at my high school. At that time I loved it like everyone else, but over the years I’ve grown to notice its flaws as well.
Titanic is another epic from the mind of James Cameron and unsurprisingly tells the real-life story behind the sinking of the Titanic in 1912. As if the true story wasn’t enough, the sinking is shown from the point of view of a love story between Rose Dewitt Bukater (Kate Winslet) and Jack Dawson (Leonardo DiCaprio). In 1996, treasure hunter Brock Lovett (Bill Paxton) and his team are searching the wreckage of the Titanic for a rare diamond and instead come across a preserved drawing of Rose, who meets with Brock and tells the story of her experiences onboard. These experiences involve a class divide, a fiancé with anger management issues (Billy Zane) and some nice (Kathy Bates) and not very nice (Frances Fisher) female aristocrats.
While I can understand why Cameron has intertwined a romance into this real-life tragedy, for me it’s this story that lessens the impact of such a horrific tale and makes this into not quite the masterpiece he wanted it to be. There are the obvious plot holes and irrational actions – the hugely memorable water door scene that could blatantly fit more than one person, and the motives for keeping an invaluable diamond hidden for 80+ years only to throw it away in the ocean – are just two of the laughably bad scenes in this. Paired with a sometimes dodgy script (there’s a scene where Rose says “Jack” over half a dozen times in less than a minute) and some cheesy exposition and narration from the older Rose, do not make for an endearing story.
However, if you can ignore the romance and poor fictional story, the rest of Titanic is an impressive bit of filmmaking. From the opening shots featuring real-life footage of the actual wreckage of the Titanic to the effects used to bring the ship to life, they are truly stunning. You can really appreciate the love and care that has gone into making this film, and the cinematography is faultless. Water is not an easy element to film yet James Cameron has mastered it with ease and including shots of the real wreckage only adds to the emotions that this evokes, especially as there are a lot of facts interlaced within the romance – the band continuing to play despite impending death is particularly moving. The cast too are strong despite the sometimes questionable material they have to work with. This is undoubtedly the film that made both Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet megastars in their own rights, although for me I much preferred the more low key performances from the likes of Kathy Bates, Bernard Hill (as Captain Smith) and Victor Garber (as shipbuilder Thomas Andrews).
Titanic is not perfect. It is a drawn-out and overly long romance set aboard a disaster movie and it can’t justify being longer than 3 hours. However, despite its flaws, it is still a masterpiece in filmmaking and truly an epic film.
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