I went into Titanic with trepidation: it is being hailed as one of the best love stories depicted on film. Cynical as I am, I don't think much of movies with a romantic theme to them. However, I was curious to see the spectacle that director James Cameron had created. Fortunately for me, Titanic is not only great in terms of action, effects, and visuals, but also provides excellent commentary on the issue of the class struggle.
Jack Dawson (Leonardo Di Caprio) is a young boy who wins passage to America aboard the Titanic in a lucky game of poker (upon boarding the ship, Jack tells to his friend that they are "the luckiest sons of bitches in the world"). Rose DeWitt Bukater (Kate Winslet) is travelling to America, to be married to Cal Hockley (Billy Zane), a situation she is not thrilled about. Sparks fly when Dawson manages to talk Rose out of jumping overboard, but tragedy awaits as the unsinkable ship hits and iceberg and begins to flounder.
In the movie, this story is presented to the audience as a flashback. The narrator is Rose, 101 years old, with the last name Dawson. She tells the story to a treasure hunter (Bill Paxton), who is looking for the famous (and valuable) Heart of the Ocean, a diamond that was given to Rose by her fiance, Hockley.
The recreation of the ship, both the exterior (the rendering for which was done using Digital Alpha processors running Linux) and the interior are impeccable. The dialogue is witty and brilliant. The movie is slow at times, but reaches its climax when the ship begins to sink. The fact that Cameron takes his time in telling the story makes it all the more tense. Cameron could've skimped in any of these areas (dialogue, cinematography, effects, authenticity) and still come out with a great movie, but he doesn't. He sticks to the formula that has worked in other great epic movies, and he pulls it off one hundred percent.
The ship was thought to be unsinkable, and so a compromise was made on the number of lifeboats aboard. When the ship did sink, it is the richest that got first priority on the lifeboats. While they waited in half-full lifeboats, they were exposed to the cries of people freezing to their deaths and didn't do a thing to help them. If a similar tragedy were to happen today, would the result be any different?
The acting is excellent by all concerned, but I was most impressed by Zane. The nice thing about a ship sinking is that it is a relatively slow event, and Cameron takes every advantage of it. The depiction of the mighty ship going under is so much larger than life and I feel this is the most magnificent part of the movie. Just for that reason alone, Titanic is a movie not just to be seen, but to be experienced. So make sure you see it on the big screen. It goes to show that the concept of the disaster movie is far from dead.