Titanic - 1997
Director(s): James Cameron
Writer(s): James Cameron
Cinematography by: Russell Carpenter
Editor(s): Conrad Buff IV, James Cameron and Richard A. Harris
Cast: Leonardo DiCaprio, Kate Winslet, Billy Zane, Kathy Bathes and Boll Paxton
Synopsis: A romance between two teens of different social classes is set in the background of the doomed maiden voyage of the R.M.S Titanic.
So, I’ll be honest with you my loyal and faithful reader, as I have been over the course of my entire illustrious career of ten months. The main reason that I’m writing a review for the movie in the top 5 all-time domestic and worldwide box-office is that its turning 20-years-old. Let that sink in for a moment and let the sense of your mortality and how time is a manmade concept that flies by without any of your consent wash over you. Sure, you remember fresh-faced Leo and Kate stealing your heart as you say that you will never let go, but you did and 20 years later you are sitting down (I know where you are sitting) to read this review while simultaneously thinking… “did I really do anything in the past 20 years?”
But before things get too real, let’s circle back to 1997, before we lost James Cameron to the 20 sequels in pre-production of Pandora. Before we lost Leo to global warming. Before we lost Billy Zane to the Hollywood machine. We had the global phenomena that was Titanic. It took the global and domestic box office by storm and it’s one of the first films I remember being a true shared experience for me at the age of 9. Everyone that you knew watched it and everyone had an opinion about it. Love it or hate it, Titanic stands tall among its peers. It also won 10 Academy Awards including Best Picture, so I’m not breaking any ground here.
James Cameron up to that point was known for his action films, giving us Terminator 1-2, Aliens and True Lies. So, when he set out to essentially do Romeo and Juliet set in the back drop of one of the most catastrophic events in human history, people where exited but tentative. Cameron managed to deliver on both the romantic side and on the disaster-movie action side, balancing the 3h 14min runtime between both themes. Cameron also showed a passion for practical effects as he utilized tons and tons of water to recreate the pure tension and terror the passengers felt during the ship’s demise. Cameron’s camera work is also the reason this film has many iconic scenes that people either reference in their future movies or people immediately associate a similar shot to Titanic. Rose and Jack spinning hand in hand in the party, Jack waiting a top of the stair as a POV shot of Kate walks up only to be met by Jack’s flirty and joyful smile and of course spinning around the ship as Jack screams “I’m the king of the world”. All moments that stand out and hold up while watching them.
Another aspect that helps this movie age so well is the production design by Peter Lamont and Michael D. Ford. Every single set felt as if it was directly pulled from the 1912 and plastered on the set. Everything from the first-class cabins to the boiler room look as genuine as possible, leaving the audience in awe and transfixing them to forget that they are looking at a set and not at the real ship that sank more than 85 years ago. And with a great set, you need great wardrobe to fit the time. In comes Deborah Lynn Scott and her incredible costume design. Every single dress, hat, tux, shoe and dirty shirt looked incredible and of the time. The stand-outs has to be all of Kate Winslet’s costumes, especially the one she wore during her character’s introduction. The huge purple hat with a bow on it and her dress/suit attire is as iconic as the entire movie.
Titanic is also known as the jumping-off point of Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet’s careers. DiCaprio became a leading man thanks to his charming and upbeat portrayal of Jack, a low-born American that won his way on to the ship and fell in love with Rose, played by Winslet. While DiCaprio stole the hearts of millions of teenagers, Winslet won an Academy Award nomination for Best Actress (her second nomination). While Winslet didn’t win, she still managed to deliver a great character arch as she went from stubborn pompous elitist to a free-willed, carefree loving person willing to risk her life for the man she fell in love with. Kathy Bates is the best as Molly Brown, the “new money” member of the elite socialite club. She is blunt, funny and doesn’t let her status get in the way of treating others like human beings. Also, Billy Zane was awesome as the villain of the film. Fight me.
I hadn’t seen this movie in roughly 19-years and this is the first time I saw it with a “critical eye” (I may need prescription glasses). So, I had some qualms with the film. The running time is excessive, especially since it takes 21 minutes for us to actually get in the boat. Cameron is a deep diving enthusiasts and clearly wanted to shoot underwater exploration of the crash and have a crew dedicated to deep diving. Some of the accents in this film are suspect at best and the entire future sequence is forgettable given how in awe the past leaves you. Sorry, cute old lady in the nightgown throwing millions and millions of dollars away in the shape of a blue heart diamond, I didn’t care for you. If we cut out those sequences the film fits in a comfortable (by comparison) 2h 30mn runtime that would lead to easier repeat viewings.
Overall, Titanic holds up beautifully 20 years later, thanks to the great direction from Cameron, timeless music, incredible set and costume design and fantastic acting by the main cast. This may come as a shock but this film is great and it perfectly fits my definition of a modern classic. Happy birthday Titanic and I look forward to having a whiskey with you next year. James Cameron is why I love movies.
Titanic is currently streaming on Amazon Prime. Hit play and never let go.
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