17 January 2005 | bob the moo
Emotionally impacting, factually informative and surprisingly involving and fast paced
The Titanic was to be the greatest ship ever made, a veritable city on the sea moving between England and New York. Made in Belfast, the ship travels to England before its maiden voyage, which it makes loaded with over 2,100 people ranging from the richest gentlemen in first class down to those in stowage seeking a new life in America. However, a series of errors and oversights result in the Titanic striking an iceberg and ripping a gash along the side below the water level. As the "unsinkable" ship starts to fill with water the shortcomings of having only 1200 lifeboat spaces sinks in.
It has become very fashionable now to hate James Cameron's Titanic and it is the norm now, not only to prefer this film but to actively hate the 97 film in any review of other versions! I'm not a fan of the rather bloating modern film but I will refrain from making this review about that film and will focus on the one I've just seen. The first thing you notice here is how quickly the film moves and, after only a very brief introduction to the characters we are underway and hitting the ice. Shorn of romantic subplots and heart-tugging sweeping scores this is a very good approach and it simply lets the facts of the event and the real horror speak for themselves. In the remake we were supposed to get our emotional attachment to one or two characters based on their love for one another; here the film respects our humanity enough to know that we will be touched by the sheer number who died and the manner of their death. This works much better and it is genuinely eerie to see that large ship slip below the surface to a barrage of screams from unseen thousands that the effects are not as good doesn't matter because they are good enough and the emotional impact more than covers for them.
This is not to say that the film lacks characters because you do tend to care for everyone and the film did very well in delivering little things without getting in the way of the rather documentary style form. The horror of the death is as well told as the horror of those watching it occur from the lifeboats; I liked the guilt of the designer and the guilt of the men who climbed into the lifeboats etc, these little touches work much better than inserting large fictional sections. With this sort of performance the actors do well all realistic with none really upstaging the film with ham. Moore is a good lead and only at the end is his delivery a bit flat but that is more the fault of a wordy conclusion. The rest of the cast do very well with realistic performances of fear even if they are being directed into generic class groups simple but, with the delivery of the material, it works.
Overall, to me this is the best telling of the Titanic disaster that I have seen. The factual approach is consistently interesting and, without our attentions being directed to one or two people, the emotional impact is greater than I expected and I was quite chilled by the whole thing. For those irritated and put off by the sweeping sentimentality of the modern version, this film is the one for you.