Movie Magazine International


USA - 1997

Movie Review By Pete Dunn

The world has always held a fascination for tragedies. The beheading of Lady Jane Gray, the gruesome murders of Jack the Ripper, Jonestown, Guyana, the Heaven's Gate suicides, the Chicago Cubs; we have always been intrigued about the grim and tragic. Many people have spent countless hours studying these events with a morbid and ghastly curiosity. Lifetimes have been spent ascertaining every detail of these calamities. The Titanic and its sinking is perhaps one of the greatest, as well as the most researched, twentieth century disasters.

"Titanic," the movie, starts by showing actual underwater footage of the wreckage. It takes place in modern times and shows an actual dive exploring the ship. The camerawork is quite amazing, and the details are quite crisp for being over two miles under the surface. It sets the stage for the movie and gives a scientific explanation for why the Titanic sank.

The movie is basically a love story. The plot is simple and uncomplicated. If you're the type of person who loves plot twists and turns that keep you in suspense throughout a movie, then this movie is not for you. The end of the movie can be figured out by savvy movie-goers within five minutes of the beginning, especially if they saw any of the studio's trailers (Hint: the boat sinks). The love story is a very interesting one, however. Kate Winslett is marvelous as Rose, an aristocratic young lady betrothed to Cal (an average performance by Zane Smith). Early on the voyage Rose meets Jack (Leonard DiCaprio), a lower-class artist on his way to America after winning his fare aboard Titanic in a poker game. Rose is fascinated by Jack's life and the freedom he has. If he wants something, he goes and gets it -- no worries about social parties or the other trappings of the upper class. The two fall in love and the audience sees the sinking of the Titanic primarily from their e! ! yes.

The reason why this movie rates in the top three that I have seen this year is for the charecterization and the artistry it shows. Through Rose and Jack you spend time with the wealthy at a gourmet dinner and at a party with live Irish music and dancing in the third class section of the ship. You meet the Captain of the ship, the chief architect, Jack's poker playing friend, Rose's fiancee Cal and his manservent, and Molly Brown --the richest woman in Denver (portrayed by Kathy Bates). It is as if James Cameron, the director, whisks the audience aboard the ship.

All the while, the audience has the sense of foreboding, of knowing what happened in history -- and then, it does happen. The ship hits the iceberg. One thing I didn't realize is that it took close to 3 hours for the ship to actually sink. The reactions of the people on the ship, and the way the adventure pans out really gives you a sense of the emotions going on aboard the ship. At first, hitting the iceberg felt like a strong jolt, but soon the Captain and crew realized what they were up against. When people aboard the ship realized that they very well might die, panic ensued. The varied emotions shown and displayed are quite fascinating.

I could go on and on about the breathtaking replication of the items aboard the ship (down to the last pieces of china and silverware), about the wonderful outfits and costuming that were used for the re-creation of the 1912 event, about the musical score (a lot of which is played by a string quartet and is very well done -- particularly their arrangements of the Blue Danube and Tales From the Vienna Woods were excellent), and about the beautiful cinematography and special effects. It all was breathtaking and amazing.

The movie plays almost like a historical biography and is like a work of art -- a true epic. Like most history novels, we know the ending, but it doesn't take away from the wonderful treats that can be found in this picture. I am sure it will win at least 4 or 5 academy awards - costuming, cinematography, editing, and Kate Winslett deserves a chance at Best Actress. If you like interesting characters that will give you an insight into the life and characters in the early 1900s and how they face a disaster, then this movie is definitely for you.

© 1997 - Pete Dunn - Air Date: 12/97

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