You’d be mistaken for thinking that Titanic was a film about a sinking ship. This is a perfectly crafted love story, which just happens to be set on the most famous ship of all time. If the film had ended with the two central characters having a successful voyage and landing in America to start a new life together, there would still be a great film here. Luckily, the historical element adds that extra depth to an already well-written story.
Its nothing too different to what has been seen before. Kate Winslet’s Rose is a rebellious young woman who is to be wed to man she doesn’t love to secure her wealthy family’s status while Leonardo DiCaprio is the young man who gambles his future for a ticket aboard the ship. From the outset the film doesn’t rush this love story, managing to build the individual characters first, their views and respective circumstances, before bringing them together.
Once they do eventually meet, its done perfectly. A tense scene on the edge of the Titanic establishes their friendship and then they slowly get to know each other and what feels like a genuine relationship develops. This is helped by the two lead actors not only being fantastic in their roles but also having the chemistry needed to pull this off. You believe their relationship and want it to succeed.
Its no surprise to say that this is not a relationship which will run smoothly. The class divide and the different worlds is recreated well, with a lot to be said about the views of early 1900 society, but the ship itself is effectively recreated too. The actual setting of the Titanic is a breath-taking one, from the minimal, under-water third-class through to the grand staircase and dining areas that find DiCaprio’s Jack out of his depth but charming his way through.
Its such a shame then that this is a ship that must sink. From the moment that iceberg hits the side of the ship though, the film’s tempo, tone and focus changes. It goes from a slow, well-written love story to an action-packed disaster movie. This isn’t a complaint. As well recreated as the ship is, the sinking of the vessel is well realised too. You feel the panic of the characters, the desperation to get off, the bold decisions some characters make and the dastardly decisions that others are forced to make too. Not to mention how brutal some of the scenes of people falling from the ship, as it falls apart, really are.
That’s the other strength of Titanic. Amongst the panic and terror and drama, the love story between Jack and Rose still plays out. This is the real story of the movie and the sinking is just a complication (albeit a huge one!) Again, you are rooting for the characters and hoping for their survival, not just their relationship!
Although the ending courts controversary and is much debated, it works perfectly for the film. It is the only ending that would work and one that has great melancholy but also manages to tell a great love story with a truly satisfying ending.
Overall, Titanic is a great love story. Winslet and DiCaprio make you believe and root for Jack and Rose as they fight both their social classes but also the sinking of the most famous ship in history. The sinking is done perfectly too, from the well-realised ship to the realistic sinking itself. A masterpiece.
Rating – 5!
(1 – Awful, 2 – Average, 3 – Good, 4 – Great, 5! – Must See)
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