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movie reviewmovie reviewmovie review out of 4 Movie Review: Titanic

Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Kate Winslet
Director: James Cameron
Rated: PG-13
RunTime: 194 Minutes
Release Date: December 1997
Genres: Action, Romance, Drama

*Also starring: Billy Zane, Kathy Bates, Frances Fisher, Gloria Stuart, Bill Paxton, Bernard Hill, Jonathan Hyde, Victor Garber

Review by David Wilcock
3½ stars out of 4

Titanic is so close to being the perfect movie it's upsetting that it isn't. The film, which cost $200 million+ to make and could of put 20th Century Fox into a lot of finicial trouble if it 'sunk' (pun intended) is a labour of love for Cameron, who wrote and directed the film. We all know that big budget dosen't mean great film (see Waterworld (1995)) but Titanic is far superior to Kevin Costners waterlogged epic. But sadly, Titanic just misses the mark of masterpiece (although it is one of Cameron's best films)

The film starts with present day explorers searching the runied Titanic. They find a safe, and inside a picture of a woman. The woman in the picture (an old Winslet) tells the explorers that the picture is of her. The explorers invite her over, and she then tells her story of Titanic. In the flashback, DiCaprio plays poor boy Jack Dawson, who, after winning a poker game, wins two tickets to board the grand ship Titanic, leaving Liverpool to go to America. Also boarding the ship is rich woman Rose DeWitt Bukater (Winslet) who is being forced into a marriage with a man she dosen't love at all, Cal Hockley (Zane) so her family can remain rich. She nearly commits suicide on the ship, but Jack comes to the rescue, saves Rose, they fall in love, and Cal gets jealous and eventually tries to kill them. Oh yeah, and the ship sinks.

And that is the main problem with the film, and which stops it from being a work of genius. The story and script (both by Cameron) are both weak. The story is full of cliched characters, (the creepy man who the nice girl has to marry, the poor boy with heart, the stuck-up mother) and poor dialogue (the script consists of lots of in-jokes of how the boat won't sink, and most of the dialogue is pretty basic) It's a shame really, as the audience does have to sit through 3 hours of this film. Without good dialogue, a film could become a very long, very boring film (like Camerons own Terminator 2, 1992) But, luckily, there are some redeeming features that make the story and dialogue problems just disappear.

Firstly, there's Cameron's direction. There are some great sweeping shots of the Titanic, and some clever fades between the flashback Titanic and the ruined Titanic. But the scenes Cameron directs especially well are the disaster scenes at the end. There is a lot of mayhem and panic, all done very well by Cameron. It's a scary sight, watching bodies fall from great heights into the watery depths below. Thanks to Cameron's direction, then, the audiences attention is held for the full 3 hours 15 minutes.

To support the directing are the excellent cast, working very well with their underwritten characters. DiCaprio is good, although he only looks 16-17 years old. His performance of a over excitiable, yet also well mannered boy is excellent, and he also has some funny lines. Winslet is great also, and her transistion from a well mannered rich girl to a rebelous young adult is pretty smooth. Zane is deliciously evil as Cal, saying every line with a sneer and a flicker of the eye lash. The audience really does come to hate him. He may be playing the same character he plays in every film he's in (like Dead Calm, 1988) but he does it really, really well. Also worthy of note is Kathy Bates (Edward Scissorhands, 1990) as a loud mouthed American.

Finally, the icing on the 'great things' cake are the special effects. Cameron is a whiz with effects (just watch Aliens (1988), Terminator 2 and True Lies, 1994) and they are used very well throughout. The sweeps of the ships are awesome, although Digital Domain, who did the effects, cannot animate human movement too well. The humans seem to move to 'smoothly', there's just something odd about them. You can tell that they have been animated on a computer. Of course, the ship sinking scenes are awesome, with bodies flying all over the place, and the scene where the ship splits in half has to be seen to be believed. Titanic is one of the only films where effects have reinforced the film.

Titanic, then, is a wonder of directing, acting and CGI, but not writing and story. Again, like most of Camerons films, the editing is loose (Cameron edits himself), and the film could of come in under three hours with a few more cuts. Titanic, then, although not the Godfather of movies it could of been, is a wonderful attempt at creating a work of genius. Enjoyable, scary, and even sad, Titanic is a film cinema was invented for, filling the screen with incredible images, and assaulting the ears with awesome sound. A superb film, but sadly not perfect.

Copyright 1997 David Wilcock

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