When “Titanic” was first released on December 17, 1997, no one anticipated the popularity it would gain or the A-list star status it would bring Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet. Sixteen years later and “Titanic” is now permanently embedded into pop culture and has been catapulted into “one of the greatest movies of all time” category.
Summary: Rose Dewitt Bukater (Kate Winslet) is an aristocrat unhappily engaged to the pompous and controlling Calvin Hockley (Billy Zane). Jack Dawson (Leonardo DiCaprio) is a poor artist who wins his way onto the Titanic after a poker game. After a turn of events, Rose and Jack meet and fall in love all while the Titanic heads for its ill-fated doom.
James Cameron isn’t one the best directors out there (no, “Avatar” isn’t better than “Titanic” by a long shot), but he luckily had a gifted cast and a simple, yet well paced story to carry the movie through. It’s well executed and puts the love story front and center in the first half of the movie; the second half is action packed and full of enough suspense to keep you at the edge of your seat.
One of the things James Cameron does do well is balance two stories at once. By the second half of “Titanic” there’s enough material from the first act to generously intermingle with the second without feeling forced or contrived. The cinematography is outstanding for a film of its time and though the running time is absurdly long (3 hours and 14 minutes), only the first ten minutes of the film feel slightly drawn out.
Kate Winslet is believable as a wealthy and unhappy young woman who is having her life choices made without her consent. Winslet gives Rose gumption and transforms her character from naïve girl whose life is not hers to a young woman who grows to know what she wants. On a side note: Winslet is completely believable as a red head, which many actresses cannot pull off at all. So, extra points to her for that.
Leonardo DiCaprio enhances the role of Jack by giving him a spark even though he’s lived a weary life of a traveling and struggling artist. DiCaprio brings forth the awkwardness of trying to blend in with the upper class and the comfortableness he feels with his own lifestyle. His chemistry with Winslet is organic and the two carry the movie well together.
Billy Zane takes a slightly evil turn as Calvin Hockley, Rose’s controlling and passive-aggressive fiancé. Zane ping pongs between controlling, sincere, desperate, and downright insane in the span of three hours. His character spices up the film and sometimes makes you feel like you don’t really know what to expect from him. Not knowing what to expect from him leads to a great scene between Zane, Winslet, and DiCaprio in the second half of the film.
The supporting cast is truly well put together. Each character is generally well layered so they never for a moment feel one dimensional. The supporting cast includes Kathy Bates and Victor Garber among others.
“Titanic” spawned several debates about the ending, Celine Dion’s “My Heart Will Go On,” and one of the most famous lines (“I’m the king of the world!”) in pop culture. Love it or hate it, “Titanic” has a place in the heart of millions around the world and is an exceptionally well done drama with a touch of everything in between.