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After winning a trip on the RMS Titanic during a dockside card game, American Jack Dawson spots the society girl Rose DeWitt Bukater who is on her way to Philadelphia to marry her rich snob fiance Cal Hockley. Rose feels helplessly trapped by her situation and makes her way to the aft deck and thinks of suicide until she is rescued by Jack. Cal is therefore obliged to invite Jack to dine at their first-class table where he suffers through the slights of his snobbish hosts. In return, he spirits Rose off to third class for an evening of dancing, giving her the time of her life. Deciding to forsake her intended future all together, Rose asks Jack, who has made his living making sketches on the streets of Paris, to draw her in the nude wearing the invaluable blue diamond Cal has given her. Cal finds out and has Jack locked away. Soon afterwards, the ship hits an iceberg and Rose must find Jack while both must run from Cal even as the ship sinks deeper into the freezing water.
For more about Titanic and the Titanic Blu-ray release, see Titanic Blu-ray Review published by Martin Liebman on September 4, 2012 where this Blu-ray release scored 5.0 out of 5.
Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Kate Winslet, Billy Zane, Kathy Bates, Frances Fisher, Gloria Stuart
Director: James Cameron
» See full cast & crew
Titanic Blu-ray Review
A titanic Blu-ray, to say the least.
Reviewed by Martin Liebman, September 4, 2012
I'm the king of the world!
Take a moment and reflect on James Cameron's directorial career. It's startling that, amongst his "major" blockbuster motion picture releases, the fantastic True Lies and the breathtaking The Abyss are probably his least well-known movies. Wow. The director of The Terminator, Terminator 2: Judgment Day, and Aliens has certainly found that sweet spot that walks the fine line between "blockbuster" and "great movie." While the two are not necessarily mutually exclusive, the two together are a bit harder to come by than one might imagine and usually only attached to the names of the upper-echelon directors, like Steven Spielberg. And that's only half the story. Cameron's also written each and every one of those blockbusters, accomplishing with every major motion picture on which he's worked what George Lucas did with four of the six Star Wars films (and most fans would agree that many, if not all, of Cameron's films top the "prequel" trilogy). But the best was yet to come. In 1997, Cameron released the massive, sweeping, true-to-every-sense-of-the-term "epic" Titanic, a dazzling three-plus-hour masterpiece that encompasses nearly every major movie element -- romance, drama, action -- and blends them in uncannily perfect harmony, the end result an eleven-time Oscar winner and, until recently, the highest-grossing film of all time. Oh, and credit Cameron for that "until recently," too. What a career, and what a movie Titanic was and continues to be, now with a Blu-ray release sure to dazzle longtime fans of the film, casual viewers, and newcomers alike.
God Himself could not sink this ship.
A group of treasure hunters has descended to the watery grave of the RMS Titanic, the "unsinkable" cruise liner that sunk on its maiden voyage from Southampton to New York City on April 15, 1912, killing 1,502 persons. The wreckage is home to a rich history simply waiting to be unburied from nearly one hundred years at the bottom of the Atlantic. But expedition leader Brock Lovett (Bill Paxton, Apollo 13) isn't interested in historical records or trinkets or more fully completing the puzzle that is the sinking of the Titanic. He's instead after the fabled "Heart of the Ocean" necklace, a priceless piece of history said to once be the property French King Louis XVI. Legend has it that the heart-shaped diamond went down with the ship, that it was purchased by the son of a Pittsburgh steel tycoon and meant as a luxurious gift for his bride-to-be. Lovett's expedition is headline news around the world. Titanic frenzy is all the rage, and Lovett appears on talk television to discuss his latest find, the safe believed to once house the necklace and inside of which the crew discovered not their prize but rather a clue: a drawing of a beautiful young woman, posing naked save for the "Heart of the Ocean" dangling from her neck. The story piques the interest of an aged Rose Dawson Calvert (Gloria Stuart) who contacts Lovett and claims to be the woman in the drawing. She's flown to the expedition site and recounts her tale of romance, self-discovery, and survival aboard the ill-fated luxury liner.
From this minute, no matter what we do, Titanic will founder.
In April of 1912, a beautiful young woman named Rose (Kate Winslet, Revolutionary Road) boards the RMS Titanic with her fiancé Cal Hockley (Billy Zane, Orlando), son of a Pittsburgh steel tycoon and heir to a vast fortune. They are returning to America where the couple is to be married, much to the approval of Rose's traditional mother Ruth (Frances Fisher, Unforgiven). Despite Cal's vast fortune, the promise of great wealth, an easy life for her and her mother, and the gift of a marvelous gem known as the "Heart of the Ocean," Rose is displeased with her life and the prospect of a long, tedious, and controlled marriage to a man she does not -- and cannot -- truly love. When she chooses to end it all by flinging herself from the rear of the ship and into the freezing Atlantic Ocean, she's talked down by a handsome and kindly young man from steerage named Jack Dawson (Leonardo DiCaprio, Shutter Island), an artistically inclined nomad who won his tickets in a game of poker minutes prior to the Titanic's departure. The two form an instant bond and recognize a spark between themselves, an unmistakable chemistry and an unbreakable connection that knows not wealth, privilege, background, or future prospects. Jack is "rewarded" for saving Rose's life with an invitation to a first-class dinner with, amongst others, Rose, Ruth, Cal, his entourage, and the Titanic's kindly designer, Thomas Andrews (Victor Garber, The Entitled). Rose grows to admire Jack's sense of freedom, his charisma, charm, carefree attitude, and self-worth despite meager origins and a largely aimless life. Cal despises him for his background, poor upbringing, and financial instability. Slowly but surely, Rose and Jack's bodies and souls draw closer together, igniting a whirlwind love affair born of the heart yet also born on the eve of one of the great disasters in human history.
Outwardly, I was everything a well-brought-up girl should be. Inside, I was screaming.
At its most basic, Titanic seems like a film shaped by contrasts, of wealth and poverty and upper decks and lower decks and the bridge and the boiler room and steel and ice and sinkable ships and notions of unsinkable ships. But it's also a tale of man's ability -- should he so choose -- to overlook differences and find something deeper inside, to ignore convention and follow the heart rather than the pocketbook or the book of life that demands one thing when the heart requires another. For Rose, it matters not the clothes on the back, the name on the checkbook, the sum in the bank account, the title on the document, or the accommodations on the ship. For Jack, the contrasts are merely obstacles to overcome in his pursuit of Rose, and truly, contrast is only the clothes on the back and the cut of the hair; Cal fails to recognize Jack in tuxedo, seeing only the suit rather than the man inside of it, reflecting his concern for and preoccupation with the superficial and the artificial rather than that which truly makes a man a man. On the other side, Rose discovers the man behind the lesser clothes and "substandard" accommodations, discovering a genuine heart, a real talent, and an honest love where high society tells her such things cannot exist. Jack sees in Rose a human being yearning to stretch her limits and live the life she wants, while Cal sees only a possession, a living and breathing jewel meant to be a decoration on his arm rather than a loving, soul-matched companion in his heart. All of the contrasts -- structural, dramatic, thematic, personal -- in the movie could not be more obvious. The end message seems to be that, no matter where life leads, the ups and downs and good times and disasters together cannot break apart true love, that sincere renouncement of society's manufactured contrasts and taboo borders, that relishing of the moment and the memories and experiences of all of life's joys even built from a fleeting moment before the world literally crumbles and floods and freezes all around.
Titanic was called the ship of dreams. And it was. It really was.
The Jack and Rose romance highlights the movie even beyond the technical achievements and the film's uncanny ability to totally absorb the audience into both the modern story and detailed history of Titanic; more on those in a moment. The romance develops beautifully and steadily, with a sense of authenticity even through those contrasts which superficially shape the film but are tossed aside to give it its purpose and particularly its heart, both in a literal and a figurative sense. DiCaprio and Winslet share a remarkable chemistry that's a product of more than words on a page but a true, honest sense of togetherness even from the first glance and dialogue exchange, felt immediately through the social boundaries and despite the forbidden contact of merely occupying the same space, let alone a stare or a touch or whatever may come as the relationship blossoms. The characters cannot ignore society's boundaries -- Rose in particular -- yet neither can deny the sense of fate and the immediate connection shared between them as they seem to instantly envision a destiny, as they see beyond the past and the troubles of the present and into a future made of togetherness and true love molded into their own hearts and not into society's prefabricated one-size-does-not-fit-all box. The relationship is as agreeable as it believable; audiences want to see them together, not only briefly on the ship but for their love to grow so strongly that it can defeat the vessel's obstacles so the two may live happily ever after. But so strong is the connection that "happily ever after" isn't about old age and sheer time together but the experience of an unbreakable, everlasting love that can withstand ice, chilled water, broken ships, even death itself, a love that quickly reaches the cosmic zenith of the emotion yet finds its demise in the physical realm with an equally quick drop. It's the truest love in one of the most heartfelt yet heartbreaking romances ever displayed on the cinema screen, and no matter its meteoric ascent and rapid decent, hearts this close, this true, this meant for one another will always go on, as the song suggests.
You could almost pass for a gentleman!
Titanic's performances are nearly as flawless as the romance. Leonardo DiCaprio's Jack can be a touch stiff in places, with a few scenes coming across so clumsily that it feels like one of those old rock-and-hard-place problems where he's trying so hard not to act that he can't shake the feel that he is acting. Fortunately, such occurrences are only outliers to a fairly solid, often seamless performance that hints at his more grounded, deeper performances to come. Leo works very well with his eyes, conveying a genuine sense of spirit and love -- not lust -- towards Rose, most evident as he draws her wearing nothing but the necklace. Kate Winslet's effort is on par with DiCaprio's, though there's more of an inner struggle and complexity at work as she sorts through not whether she wants to be with Jack -- there's no question about that -- but whether she can be with Jack. The character arc is not defined by situations but rather a strong, honest sense of self-discovery that's unearthed both by the influences of Cal's overbearing ways and Jack's carefree charisma. Winslet enriches Rose with genuine emotions that extend beyond love and into something far beyond the common definition of the word, and it's that soulful, genuine bond she develops that carries the movie on through to conclusion and extends to the elder Rose at the end of the film and for Titanic's most story- and character-defining scene. The film is dotted with excellent work from Kathy Bates (Misery) as the famed "unsinkable" Molly Brown, Frances Fisher as Rose's hardheaded mother, and Victor Garber as the affable and humble ship designer, yet it's Billy Zane in the "villain" role who shines brightest. Zane's so immersed in character, so tied to the clothes and the riches and the empty-eyed stare into the gold-plated chasm that is his life that he becomes one of the finest villains in recent memory and one of the easiest characters to root against. His charisma becomes jealousy and the jealousy becomes a greater need for overwhelming control which finally yields an uncontrollable rage as the character is brought to full fruition with as seamless a cadence as that of the budding romance between Jack and Rose. His descent into madness but also his steadfastness in his nearly unbreakable sense of self-worth and stubborn insistence on winning -- or spinning a win -- at any costs shapes the film's best character and its finest performance.
It has been a privilege playing with you tonight.
Not overshadowing but certainly hanging over the romance is the pending tragedy that will sink the ship and stress the newly formed relationship and recently broken engagement both to their limits. The plot turning point that is the sinking is no mystery yet it comes tragically and slowly and, as the movie's been so absorbing, still almost unexpectedly in the greater context of the plot and the film's dramatic rhythm shaped by interpersonal relationships. Perhaps Titanic's greatest marvel is its ability to make a moment everyone in the audience knows is coming so psychologically intense, emotionally painful, and dramatically involved. The lead-up to the crash and the events immediately following the ship's collision with the iceberg are crafted with a simple intensity, underscored by a steady, even, and reserved musical rhythm that jolts the audience into a sense of dread, not yet despair or hopelessness, but a constant, underlying fear of what's to come. The crew's quiet anxiousness is countered by some of the passengers' nonchalant reaction to the collision as they use chunks of ice as soccer balls and hang over the side rails to marvel at the woulds suffered by the mighty vessel, caused by nothing other than the surface on which it rides only reformed and hardened and fatefully floating in its path. What follows is an eerie foreknowledge of doom and a sense of hopelessness that yields unimaginable choices, and, in the end, panic that Director James Cameron seems to extend into the theater, pulling the audience onto the ship and, in its final moments, having them dangle from its end, gripping tightly and fearful of falling and being pulled into and under the frigid waters that will be a liquid tomb for far too many souls. Watching the film from theater's safety, knowing what is to come, and understanding that it's fact reshaped as fiction cannot desensitize the audience to the tragedy or break their connection to the romance that's transformed in an instant from a playful interlude of match-made souls to a struggle for survival against man, fallible manmade objects, and nature herself. The tragedy extends to the characters, to the realization of what's happening and what's to come, to the somber undercurrent of the ship's band's upbeat notes and the sense of loss of love in life but the hope that it will live forever in the hearts and souls of the characters who found one another and, thereby, found themselves in the shadow of tragic destiny. From afar, it's a surreal experience to watch it all unfold. From within, let nobody else ever know.
She's the largest moving object ever made by the hand of man in all history.
Cameron's Titanic is a mesmerizing masterpiece of historical recreation, of the ship on a bustling dock preparing to sail, of its majesty cruising the Atlantic waters, of the slow demise of the unsinkable ship, of the rise of the waters and the sinking of the iron and steel. From the film's opening shots to the culmination of Jack and Rose's passion is one of cinema's finest love stories, and from the moment of the collision to the ship's last taste of air is perhaps cinema's most frenzied, intense, prolonged, and beautifully crafted string of events. Titanic is truly a marvel of modern filmmaking, a grand, spellbinding, and nearly seamless recreation not of an object but of a history. It's derived from painstaking research, perfected cinema technique, digital excellence, and picture-perfect model work. The movie mesmerizes from the very beginning as Lovett's vessel approaches the wreckage and he offers his corny but accurate monologue about the scope and importance of the mission as well as the historical significance of the Titanic itself. The movie perfectly displays the haunting image of the ship in its final resting place, a watery still-life depiction of the chilling final moment of its existence and then the sudden unrest of its settled remnants, swept-up and robotically overturned debris interrupted from its slow reversion back to nature. The movie never lets go from there. It's one of the most absorbing spectacles ever created, and it's the dedication to perfection that makes Titanic complete. From the model makers to the digital artists, from the costume designers to the set decorators, from the actors to the director, from the cinematographer to the composer, this is a rare movie where everything is just right, where everything feels right, a movie in which every last little detail comes together with such precision that even "seamless" is too weak a word to describe how all-encompassing it truly is. Few movies achieve that level of greatness -- 1977's Star Wars comes to mind -- which places Titanic in rare company indeed. Even if one views the story as overplayed, the film as overhyped, the romance as overly trite, or the entire thing simply tired, one cannot help but marvel at sheer scope and technical perfection that plays out on the screen in what is a deserving classic and certainly one of the top handful of movies ever made.
Titanic Blu-ray, Video Quality
Titanic sails onto Blu-ray with a remarkable 1080p transfer. Certainly, "the reflection's changed a bit" since last the movie was offered on home video, and for the better. For the significantly better. Titanic looks as good as brand-new movie on Blu-ray, with every intricate little detail in its place, each color perfectly balanced and true to the film's intended appearance. Light grain remains throughout, supporting a wonderful film-like texturing. Certainly, some of the effects shots look a hair smooth, nighttime exteriors sometimes a touch pale, and unmissable banding surrounds the submersible's bright light source against the otherwise pitch-black ocean depth at film's beginning, but these merely reflect the way the movie's always looked, the way it looked in theaters, on home video, and now on Blu-ray. Though these moments may not appear as crisp and perfectly defined as the rest of the movie, there's simply no denying that Titanic's spectacle translates remarkably well to high definition, and audiences will be amazed what a strong image this really is. It's truly the best-case scenario for the film's high definition debut. Even on the ocean floor, there are some remarkable visuals that remain finely and tightly detailed. An old shoe, bent eyeglasses, a mask, a broken piano, even individual speckles of sand and disturbed and floating debris look amazing, all being seen through the lens of technology the passengers and crew of Titanic could have never imagined. The shots inside the submersible reveal stunning facial textures -- notably on Paxton's face where every line and pore is revealed with incredible lifelike accuracy -- and good, steady colors. The film remains naturally sharp throughout, and displays a crisp image that reveals everything from the elder Rose's wooden kitchen counter to her wrinkled and speckled face with detail so rich and realistic one can nearly feel the textures. Bright exteriors seen when Rose arrives at the expedition site offer brilliant colors that retain a natural, even appearance.
When the film flashes back to 1912 for the bulk of its runtime, the sheer quality of the image remains, if not strengthens. From the moment Rose first appears, the image positively dazzles with the natural purple shade that defines her hat, brilliant in sunlight and accurate even in shadow. Its intricate details dazzle, and the natural texture of Rose's delicate face and the clarity of the surroundings could not be any more impressive. The image remains sharp and focused even at a distance, capturing with startling precision the hustle and bustle of the docks prior to the ship's departure. The Titanic's regal adornments will impress even the most jaded viewer with the natural precision with which smooth wooden surfaces, golden appointments, and general aristocratic accents truly sparkle, both in texture and color reproduction. Even in the lower decks, where wood and gold and fine trim give way to plain glossy white, the transfer picks up the most subtle little touches of the surfaces that practically transport the viewer to steerage. Clothes are wonderfully detailed and intricately complex, whether the fine lines and seams on black tuxedos or the stitched decorations on the captain's hat. The above deck shots capture that same natural precision noted in the dock sequence; everything is beautifully reflective of the lighting conditions, whether a brilliant sun shining off of Rose's red hair or the ship's lights and the moon gently illuminating darkened areas. The image remains crisp and accurate even through the chaos of the collision and subsequent sinking while under the darkness of night. Some of the shots of the distant life rafts appear somewhat washed out, but this appears to be by design and how the movie has always looked in such scenes; otherwise, audiences would be staring at a predominantly black screen. This is a pure Blu-ray transfer, the very definition of an exemplary presentation. Fans will be simply astonished with Paramount's efforts on this classic film.
Titanic Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Titanic's DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 lossless soundtrack is a match for the video and one of the finest high definition audio presentations on the market today. The track handles its wide range of sound elements with equal precision and grace, whether light ambience such as a churning hard drive heard during a scene in which Rose watches a digital recreation of the sinking in chapter seven or rushing waters tearing through the ship's lower decks as the vessel meets its doom. There are a few moments when the track seems to leave a little behind, such as on the docks before ship's departure; the din of the hustle and bustle doesn't quite stretch so far into the background so as to completely immerse the listening audience into the moment and practically place them in the location, but the effect is nonetheless a very good one. However, the majority of the track makes full use of the entire stage. A helicopter slices through the soundstage with startling efficiency and power as it brings Rose to the modern-day ship. In 1912, the sense of sheer power -- heard and felt -- as the ship shoves off and gets underway will dazzle. The raw strength as it pushes through water, moves from side to side, and powers through the Atlantic will leave listeners breathless. Counter that with the heavy churns of what are literally well-oiled machines down in the engine room and the steamy heat of the boiler room and audiences get a full sonic sense of the entire spectrum of the ship in motion. Music is balanced and naturally smooth. Whether James Horner's (Glory) epic score, live party music below decks, or the band's music that famously plays on as the ship sinks, every note enjoys crystal-clear clarity as they effortlessly float into the listening area. The track injects pleasant above deck ambience, gently inserting light winds and rolling waters to capture the sonic essence of being aboard the ship.
However, the track is defined by the second half's more energized effects. The scrapes and cracks heard during the collision penetrate the soundstage with frightening accuracy. Sloshing water; wet footsteps; and later, rushing waters exploding through the corridors -- shattering glass and sweeping away passengers -- play with startling volume, energy, and precision. Those rushing waters represent one of the best yet most terrifying sound effects ever heard on Blu-ray, and such elements all but saturate the soundstage and displace the listener and the equipment. Outside, the din of frightened passengers, the creaky sound of the lifeboats being lowered via a system of pulleys, the distant chaos from inside the ship, and the band's music altogether truly pull listeners into the chilled Atlantic night. A few scattered gunshots ring out with efficient power and presence. Dialogue plays evenly and smoothly from the center channel, never lost under music, ambient effects, or heavy sound elements. This is an extraordinary, totally immersive and genuine soundtrack that effortlessly transports listeners into the world of burgeoning romance and, later, the chaos of Titanic's final moments.
Titanic Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Titanic's supplemental collection is nearly as massive as the famed ship. OK, not really, but in the grand scheme of the Blu-ray universe, this is a real knockout of a collection, a thorough and impressive yet somewhat daunting array of material that will keep fans busy for hours, if not days, on end. Highlights include a trio of audio commentary tracks, two documentaries, deleted scenes, thirty-one behind-the-scenes featurettes, galleries, trailers, TV spots, the Celine Dion music video, and plenty more. The disc two special feature subtitles include optional English, French, and Spanish language choices. Discs three and four of this set split the movie across two DVDs. A downloadable digital copy redemption code is also included.
Titanic Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Titanic is as complete as a movie can be, a beautifully crafted epic that dazzles with its pure cinema perfection -- technical, dramatic, and thematic -- in every single scene, enough to maybe even move some cinephiles to tears merely at the sight of its splendor, never mind the romance and the heartbreak and tragedy that hang over the first half and define the second. Perhaps the film suffers from overexposure -- the box office, the Leo craze, and the Celine Dion song being the key "culprits" -- but perhaps it's also a hair underrated, if the number-two box-office grosser and winner of eleven Oscars can be called such. Truly, this is a remarkable film in every single regard. Sit back and watch it for the craftsmanship if for nothing else and prepare to be startled all over again. It holds up remarkably well, not just dramatically but technically, too. And for those who haven't seen it in a while, maybe since the days of VHS or LaserDisc or even in 1997 cinemas, get ready to be dazzled watching it through more mature eyes, as a total masterpiece of filmmaking, almost like seeing it for the first time. This is a movie that has everything working for it and everything working for it in perfect harmony. There's nary a thread out of place, and it looks every penny its gargantuan budget. This is a real treat for the senses and an emotional roller coaster quite unlike anything else, a movie that will not only dazzle but move and inspire its audiences, too. The only problem? The movie almost demands to be experienced on the largest screen possible, and now with Paramount's first-class Blu-ray release, seeing it big is a breeze. The Blu-ray is positively stunning in every regard, as much a masterpiece as the movie. With breathtaking video, totally immersive sound, and enough supplements to fill a day or two, Titanic shoots towards the top of the heap of 2012 Blu-ray releases, and it also stands proudly, even from the bottom of the ocean, as one of the format's top overall releases yet. Titanic earns my highest recommendation.
Titanic: Other Editions
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