Despite the fact that the wreck of the RMS Titanic fascinated me as a child, James Cameron’s Titanic is a movie that I never bothered to see. My parents never spoke of it, we didn’t own it, and we never watched it when it came on TV, but I read about the Titanic itself at every opportunity I got; I recently found a book about the discovery of the wreck that I had bought at a book fair back in elementary school. In case you didn’t know, the 100th anniversary of the disaster was on April 14/15 of this year (2012), and James Cameron re-released Titanic in 3D to commemorate the anniversary. I decided that it was about time that I finally saw it, so I watched it for the first time 100 years to the day after the sinking of the ship…and I was astounded at how good it was.
While most of the talk about this film focuses on Jack (Leonardo DiCaprio) and Rose (Kate Winslet), where Titanic succeeds the most is in its historical context and accurate (at the time it was made) representation of the disaster. Cameron even recreated famous pictures onscreen, such as the following picture of a boy playing with a spinning top and the subsequent still from the movie:
It’s little details like this that make me so appreciative a film that is otherwise considered a romance. Cameron does a fantastic job with highlighting the contempt between social classes on board, both before the disaster and during the sinking. We witness both the best and the worst of the rich, with some, such as Cal Hockley, assuming that his social status endows him with certain privileges, and others, such as Isador and Ida Strauss, dying together in bed so that they may stay with each other and so that others may take their spots in the lifeboats. We see the remorse that Thomas Andrews feels because he “didn’t build…a stronger ship,” and the regret felt by Captain Edward Smith at not having been more cautious. The most poignant moment in the film is when the musicians play “Nearer My God to Thee” as we see destruction, hopelessness, and death occurring in the ship’s final moments.
I know that some may argue that Jack and Rose are the focus of this film, and I won’t disagree that their story is key to its success. Leonardo DiCaprio’s charisma as Jack is engrossing, and it’s his performance that drives much of the film. I sympathize with Rose in her situation with her mother and her fiance, and by the end of the film I am emotionally invested in the relationship between her and Jack. Through this unlikely pair we are given several life lessons: to “make each day count” and that love transcends money and social classes.
This is a film that I fully expected to dislike, but seeing it on the big screen for the first time is an experience that I will never forget. It’s an engaging historical drama and a passionate romance film, mixed with outstanding visuals and a gorgeous score by James Horner. Judge me all you want, but Titanic is one of my all-time favorites.
Rating: 5 (out of 5)
MPAA: PG-13 – for disaster related peril and violence, nudity, sensuality and brief language