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Titanic (1997)


The highest grossing, at the time, film of all time is still a standout so many years later. The real ship cost about $200M to build and the film has grossed 1000 times that much in the same dollars. A baby-faced Leonardo DiCaprio plays Jack, a working-class artist who refuses to abide by society’s rules. Kate Winslet is Rose, a seventeen-year-old aristocrat about to enter a loveless marriage. Kathy Bates is also along for the ride as ‘The Unsinkable’ Molly Brown, a real-life Titanic passenger who maintained fame throughout her life and has a Broadway musical about it. James Cameron wrote and directed this classic.

I forgot how much of the film is spent on the Russian research vessel that launches submarines to explore the wreckage; the ship does not hit an iceberg until 100 minutes into the film. Dr. Anatoly is an actual researcher named Anatoly as are a few of the other members of the ship's crew. James Cameron set the world record for deepest solo submersible dive in 2012. He has taken at least 33 dives to the Titanic and spent more time on board than Captain Smith. Cameron’s interest in science, technology, and advancing the state of the art in film has been a throughline of his entire career.

For a film created twenty-five years ago, there are fewer cringe-worthy choices than you might expect. Fabrizio and Tommy have thick accents, but they were born in Austria (45 minutes from Italy) and Ireland respectively. Rose is seventeen, four years older than Shakespeare's Juliet. Should we be seeing a seventeen-year-old topless? I think this film will stand the test of time and continue to make the greatest film lists.

Titanic has elements from many different film types. Drama and love are covered with Jack and Rose falling in love despite protests from her family. Crime is covered with Jack being accused of stealing The Heart of the Ocean blue diamond and being locked away in the bowels of the ship. Commentary on class and the value that the upper-class places on tradition and appearance are on full display. Molly Brown does provide a new perspective with her ‘new money’ and fights the patriarchy. It is also evident that she is an American abroad.

The film is also heavily action and adventure. There are multiple scenes where Jack and Rose are dashing through the hallways of the ship and eventually swimming down these paths. Practical effects are heavily used in all the close-up shots. While the CGI is dated and there is repetition, notably when a body falls from the ship, hits something, and starts spinning wildly out of control, it was not overused and does not distract. The balance between love story/drama and action is near perfection and you get to enjoy each for significant amounts of time over the 3:14 run time.

I thoroughly enjoyed Titanic and was surprised. I remember the love story aspect and the steamy car scene, but I had forgotten how tense the film was at times despite knowing the ending. The run time can be intimidating but with streaming, you can choose when to take a break and the film will be waiting for your return. This film is a classic for a reason and will continue to deserve that designation for decades to come.

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