Shipshape It May Have Cost $200 Million, but James Cameron's Epic 'Titanic' Mixes Great Drama with Superb Special Effects

Article excerpt

Byline: Dann Gire Daily Herald Film Critic

"Titanic"

* * * *

Written and directed by James Cameron. Produced by James Cameron and Jon Landau. A Paramount Pictures release. Rated PG-13. Running time: 200 minutes.

Cast:

   Rose DeWitt Bukater   Kate WInslet
   Jack Dawson      Leonardo DiCaprio
   Cal Hockley         Billy Zane
   Rose (at 101)      Gloria Stuart
   Brock Lovett      Bill Paxton

With Kathy Bates, Frances Fisher, Suzy Amis and David Warner.

Early in James Cameron's epic drama "Titanic," some high-tech, deep-sea salvage operators show 101-year-old survivor Rose Bukater a computer-graphics re-enactment of how the great ship sank in the sea after striking an iceberg during its infamous 1912 maiden voyage.

We watch as the computer-animated Titanic breaks in two: its tail rises up as the bow starts to go under; the tail section drops back down after the front section breaks free and sinks; then the tail section rises into the air a second time, and eventually slides under the surface.

This brilliant piece of foreshadowing proves to be filmmaker Cameron's crowning dramatic masterstroke. The animated re-enactment explains the mechanics of what we will see later so we can become swept away by the human drama and not be preoccupied by questions such as "Why do the propellers keep going in and out of the water?"

At a cost of $200 million, Cameron's ambitious historical romantic adventure "Titanic" now takes the title of Most Expensive Movie Made in History away from Kevin Costner's "Waterworld" (at a meager $175 million).

But more important, it represents a milestone for the controversial Cameron, whose earlier pictures ("Terminator," "The Abyss," "True Lies") have always been high on impressive effects, but short on impressive drama.

"Titanic" marks Cameron's finest achievement, a perfected meld of technical craftsmanship and dramatic resonance that integrates special effects seamlessly into a story.

Brock Lovett (played by Cameron regular Bill Paxton) leads a salvage operation attempting to recover a valuable diamond necklace from the wreckage of the Titanic, located 2. …