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Titanic 3D: A Chance to Relive ‘97
Titanic was momentous and its effect on pop culture was probably bigger than its effect on cinema. There hasn’t been a film since Titanic that has managed to create such a fuss; attracting everybody and their grandmother to the cinema, and dominating everybody’s conversations regardless of age or ethnicity. Even the Harry Potter series, arguably the biggest films of this millennium, have a fan base that maxes out at a certain age. Besides, the Titanic onslaught was also aural; Celine Dion’s theme song was inescapable and remained that way for a few years after. It’s actually a wonder that something so fantastically irritating was so popular, but luckily it seems we’re being spared the musical assault this time around.
In hindsight, Titanic is pretty cheesy. Actually scratch pretty, it’s super cheesy. The dialogue is basically clunker after clunker; one of them in particular: “A woman’s heart is a deep ocean of secrets,” sounds like something out of a bad dating manual. The younger Rose contends with her share of duds where Kate Winslet seems very ill at ease while she delivers them. In fact, she only loosens up somewhat when she starts to fall in love with Jack; it’s the romance that enchanted viewers the first time around that has kept the film culturally relevant and generated it so much goodwill. It’s the epitome of a love story. You have two very attractive leads acting out a forbidden love story between a girl stifled by upper class norms, and a free spirited artist from the wrong side of the tracks. Toss in her stubborn, arrogant fiancé, who she’s being pressured into marrying to save her family from financial ruin, and you have just the right elements of a great forbidden love. The Titanic going down is just window dressing and the only reason we care about the accident is because of its effect on Jack and Rose’s relationship. As a viewer, you spend the length of the film rooting for them to end up together; the iceberg is just one more obstacle keeping them apart. And yes, the part where Rose lets Jack go at the end is still as tear inducing as ever.
It’s interesting to see Leonardo DiCaprio at his teen heartthrob peak. It’s easy to forget now but back in the ‘90s DiCaprio was inescapable; he was to the ‘90s what Zac Efron and Taylor Lautner are to this decade.
The 3D effect adds considerable depth to the picture but like most reissues, the real draw here is seeing the film in the cinema; the 3D doesn’t add enough to warrant another viewing if you’re just lukewarm about the film, or if you’ve already seen it a trillion times on TV. The true experience here is reliving 1997 all over again; in other words, feeling nostalgia. Whether it’s for the days when ‘blockbuster’ wasn’t just a code name for a superhero flick; for when film events weren’t a dime a dozen and managed to capture the general public’s attention for extended periods of time; or for when one film would come along and give everybody something in common to be excited about.
After a series of questionable career choices – After Earth, Focus anyone? – Will Smith returns to form in Peter Landesman’s biographical sport-drama, Concussion; an entertaining, but relatively safe, biopic.
Concussion tells the story of Nigerian-born forensic neuropathologist, Dr. Bennet Omalu (Smith), who in 2002 makes a startling medical discovery when the body of a former American football player, who’s reported erratic behaviour and mental instability led him to suicide, is brought in for an autopsy.
Omalu’s findings suggest that the persistent head trauma, which the players endure on daily basis out in the field, can cause permanent brain damage, which often leads to various mental disorders, including memory loss, anxiety and depression.
Naming the disorder CET - Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy – Omalu decides to publish his findings in order to educate the public on the potential dangers of the game. Unfortunately for him, the NFL isn’t too keen on what he has to say.
Based on a true story that rocked professional sports in America, the film starts off on an investigative and relatively intriguing note by opening with the struggles and then the death of Hall of Fame football star, Mike Webster (Morse). This is when we are introduced to Omalu, whose quiet and yet somewhat quirky demeanour - he talks to his corpses before beginning an autopsy - doesn’t sit all that well with his less traditional colleagues. Striking a good balance between highlighting Omalu’s journey as an African-born doctor in America and later his struggles when dealing with the NFL, Concussion ticks most of the boxes of an affective biopic; however, the film often swerves into the melodramatic, which diminishes the weightiness of the story at times.
In addition, the script doesn’t take risks in unravelling the story from its very core; it would have been nice to see a bit more dirt hiding underneath NFL’s impenetrable façade, for example, and the hurdle that the NFL presents to Omalu in publishing his findings never really seems challenging in any real way, leaving the film as a whole rather unrewarding.
Luckily, Smith, in one of his best performances in years, is there to remind all of what a passionate and empathetic actor that he can be, even if the romantic subplot never really pays off. Intriguing and thought-provoking, Concussion works, but thanks to its safe approach, it never really resonates as the important or a must-see film that it could have been.
Inspired by Casey Sherman and Michael J Tourgias’ 2009 non-fiction book, The Finest Hours: The True Story of the U.S Coast Guard’s Most Daring Sea Rescue, Craig Gillespie’s rescue-drama is an occasionally compelling film, but bearing in mind this is supposed to be the retelling of one of the greatest sea rescues in the history of sea rescues, the end-result is a little flatter and isn’t distinguished as one might expect.
Taking place on 1952, off the coast of Massachusetts, a raging storm has caused two oil tankers - the SS Fort Mercer and SS Pendleton – to split in half. While most of the rescue boats have been deployed to assist the Mercer, the crew on Pendleton - led by the first assistant engineer, Ray Sybert (Affleck) – weren’t able to send out a rescue signal and are now left at the mercy of the sea.
Meanwhile on land, docile-looking Coast Guard captain, Bernie (Pine) has been given instructions by his commanding officer, Daniel (Bana) to undertake the risky rescue-mission after the Pendleton’s location is discovered. Aware of the consequences, Bernie, along with a handful of men, heads out into the stormy night.
What keeps The Finest Hours afloat, so to speak, is the fact that it’s inspired by real-life events – this in itself gives the plot a sense of gravitas. If this was a fictional plot, however, it would have been thrown out long before it reached the big screen, despite, for the most part, telling its story in a relatively compelling and capable manner.
The problem is that it’s all a little run-of-the-mill. Giving the subjects of loyalty and bravery the classic, melodramatic Hollywood touch, the familiarity of the story is inviting, yes, but it’s also highly derivative and predictable. In addition, the nautical jargon used in the film is confusing and keeping up with the technicalities distracts from the human elements of the plot.
However, the film’s biggest setback comes with the decision to screen it in 3D, which is not only distracting, but also terribly disorienting; most of the film takes place at night, so trying to keep up with what’s going on is almost impossible.
The performances offered by what is a solid cast, meanwhile, are engaging enough to keep things balanced – Pine is surprisingly reserved but affective, while Affleck shines as the skilful engineer. Overall, though, it’s just not strong or heartfelt enough to keep its head above water (sorry, we can’t help it) and deliver a story which fitting of its real-life story.