Titanic (1997) – Movie Review

Leonardo Dicaprio and Kate Winslet in Titanic (1997)

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Hello internet, it’s me, Slick Dungeon back to review another movie. James Cameron has a visually stunning, incredibly brilliant, emotional and moving film in theaters right now. And there are not any blue aliens in it. I’m talking, of course, about Titanic, his masterpiece from 1997. It was released in theaters in 3D for a limited engagement and I thought I would give it a review here. Do be forewarned there will be spoilers below from a 25 year old movie and an even older historical event. But if reading spoilers doesn’t float your boat, go watch the movie and come on back here to read the review.

There have been countless new reports, historical records, in depth analysis, scientific recreations and eye witness accounts to one of the most well known disasters in human history, the sinking of the Titanic. If somehow you don’t know, the Titanic was the largest ocean liner ever made at the time and it was thought to be unsinkable. Unsinkable it was not. There were tons of factors into how and why it sank but the fact is, it did sink and a great number of people lost their lives in the disaster. But all of those historical records etc. don’t seem to quite make the tragedy feel as real as James Cameron’s Titanic which still, 25 years after release, has the ability to make an entire audience ugly cry.

The film starts out with Brock Lovett (Bill Paxton) in modern day times, leading an ocean expedition to recover valuable goods at the wreckage site of the Titanic. He’s clearly a bit of an opportunist but has a large team of ocean researchers working for him. They are looking for a lost jewel known as the heart of the ocean. After a dive to recover a safe turns up nothing but a drawing, Lovett is surprised to find there is a Titanic survivor over 100 years old who can shed some insight into the necklace and the events of the sinking of the ship.

The elderly woman is Rose who was the person in the drawing. James Cameron uses this framing device to allow Rose (Kate Winslet) to relate the story as the viewers go back in time to see Rose in her younger years and the audience gets wrapped up in a love story which takes place in the midst of a disaster. Rose is engaged to Cal Hockley (Billy Zane), a wealthy business man who believes himself to be deserving of the elite status bestowed upon him. In other words, Rose and Cal are members of the 1% of the time.

Our perspective shifts as we see Jack Dawson (Leonardo DiCaprio) win a lucky hand of cards which just happens to have two tickets for him and a friend to board the Titanic. As you might guess, the love story is a bit of an opposites attract or kind and intelligent rich girl meets freedom loving and good hearted poor boy sort of story. Since Rose is engaged to be married this is a bit of a problem. Jack may not have the resources of other elites on board but it’s clear from their first meeting they belong together.

If the love story was all there was to the film, this might make for a mediocre romance. But we all know the real story is the disaster of the ship. James Cameron uses several scenes with Rose and Jack running around the ship and away from Cal to make sure we see all parts of the ship before it hits the iceberg. There are a few key characters who play sort of a background role but are important to the actual historical events. We see the captain, the designer and builder of the ship, and one of the more famous survivors of the tragedy, Molly Brown (Kathy Bates). Through these characters we pick up most of the information we need to know about why the boat sinks and how so many people drown. While it was an impressive ship, there were not enough life boats, the elite class was seen as more valuable than those below decks, the visibility was poor, and the ship was going too fast. The initial collision doesn’t seem that bad but the builder of the ship knows it is a mathematical certainty the boat will sink. And, to make matters worse, there are no ships less than four hours away to help rescue the Titanic passengers and the Titanic will sink in around an hour.

The first two thirds of the movie really focuses on the love story and how Jack and Rose are meant to be together while Cal is just the worst. Like, so bad he’s willing to pretend a kid he does not know is his just so he can get on a lifeboat kind of worst. Oh, and also he tries to shoot Rose and Jack while the ship is sinking. It’s kind of insane to be honest.

The last third of the movie is the disaster and Jack and Rose doing everything they can to survive.

This is where the visual effects are most impressive in the movie. I will say that although I saw this in 3D, I don’t think the 3D effects really add much here and it’s fine to watch this in 2D, it’s still just as good.

We again see bits of things we know from history intermingled with Jack and Rose, such as the dance band continuing to play right until the end, lifeboats made for 70 people being loaded with a dozen before being launched, and the passengers in steerage being locked behind a gate until it was far too late for most of them to survive.

As anyone would expect in a film about a disaster, the end is heartbreaking and tragic. But the performance put in here by Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio are career bests for both of them. If you can watch this movie without finding yourself crying at least once, you are either a robot or have a heart of stone.

There are a few things in this movie that probably could have been improved but they are quite minor. One of my complaints here (which again is very minor) is that a bit of the running around Rose and Jack do on the ship really does seem designed to do nothing more than make sure we see all the parts of it. My other minor complaint is Jack seems to somehow know exactly how the boat is going to go under and where they need to be for the best chance of survival. This is mostly to show the audience how the ship sank from the moment of first impact to it finally going completely under the water. And of course, if you have seen the movie, there is the argument of whether or not Jack could fit on the door. Whether or not he could is in some ways irrelevant since Jack and Rose are both fictional characters and what happens at the end is in service of the story being told. Finally, the length of the movie is on the longer side for sure but this is definitely not the only film which fits into that category of complaint.

If you have never seen this movie, or if you have never seen it in theaters, don’t hesitate, it’s worth every penny to see this masterpiece of filmmaking while you can.

If you have seen it before and you watched it again what did you think? Did it hold up to what you remembered? Let me know in the comments.

Unsinkably yours,

Slick Dungone