T A N I C
By Andrew Jack
2 March 1998 - This is the tale of a vastly expensive and
excessively hyped epic that plunged towards a commercial fate as
catastrophic as that of its subject material, before resurfacing
impressively to salvage more than one professional reputation.
is a film whose length and profits are matched only by its lack of
subtlety. As Hollywood alone can do, there are few nuances in the
portrayal of good against evil, beauty against ugliness, and the
victory of love over class and money.
The only surprise for
such a mainstream US film is that the heart-throb hero Leonardo
Dicaprio is ultimately dispensed with - and, indeed in strictly
chronological terms, he disappears for good beneath the cold waters of
the Atlantic long before the end of the story.
But thanks to
a rather unnecessary splicing of a contemporary tale of
salvage-hunters alongside the historical love story, viewers get to
see him alongside co-star Kate Winslet right until the end.
assorted anachronisms and occasionally disappointing special effects
(notably a very one-dimensional ship sitting in the harbour just
before departure), Titanic does what American cinema does best: create
cliche-ridden, action-packed tension.
While at least half an
hour of additonal celluloid could certainly have happily been left
ship-wrecked on the editing room floor, the film seems to last far
less than its more than 3-hour duration (which at least has the
advantage of giving viewers a feeling of value for money).
its historical research can be relied on, the film also proves
surprisingly informative at times: seeing how long it took for the
boat to go down, how it split in two before sinking, how corporate
greed and personal egos contributed to the lack of sufficient numbers
of lifeboats and the high speed which helped cause the collision.
most memorably, how the band played on amid the chaos of ship
abandonment, and how Guggenheim famously chose to go down calmly
sipping brandy in the first class lounge rather than take part in an
unseemly scramble for the life jackets.
though hardly surprising, is the caricatural juxtaposition of
aristocratic lips so cold and stiff that they could have sunk the ship
without external help, crudely contrasted with the fun of the
salt-of-the-earth working class on the lower decks where they are soon
to be sealed while their "betters" escape.
look for any concealed, submerged iceberg-style meanings in Titanic.
But you could find far worse ways to pass a substantial chunk of a
chill winter's evening.