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Titanic (1997) James Cameron, 25th anniversary 3D re-release

Who hasn't seen this already? The depressed rich girl meets the free-spirited poor boy and the biggest boat ever built sinks into the middle of the freezing Atlantic Ocean.

25 years after I first saw it at the cinema as an innocent and impressionable 13-year-old at the start of 1998 the film remains the same, apart from becoming slightly 3D, and yet I have changed immeasurably. Leonardo DiCaprio is a lot less convincing as a worldly romantic hero, but he is so gorgeous and charming that the more bitter and cynical 38-year-old version of myself can believe that I would have fallen in love with him anyway, if I was Rose, as did much of the world at the time. I was so immensely moved and thrilled by the movie as a child that I wonder whether I too was allured into giving up my domestic banality and security to live an adventurous and nomadic life, falling in love with any beautiful, open-hearted man I meet.

The music is unashamedly manipulative, filling in the cracks that the thin characters and weak performances leave to make the film as emotionally moving as it is visually. Apart from Kate Winslet dragging the film behind her with admirable commitment, many of the characters are cartoonish and it's amazing that they teeter miraculously on the right side of laughable. Luckily we only need to care about the two romantic leads, and they are so sexy and so hot for each other, and so blank that we can project all our most outlandish romantic fantasies upon them. This is the sort of toxic, unattainable romantic fantasy that seeps into the core of impressionable 13-year-olds like me and stays there for life, disappointing us with every real relationship that fails to compare. Maybe I've been lucky enough to have a Leo or two in my life, maybe I've tortured myself and my lovers in pursuit of fantasy ever since.

At three and a quarter hours the pacing is exceptional; the drawing us into the world, the getting to know the situation, the escalation of conflict and of course especially the application of the inevitable disaster are expertly deployed. Everything comes at the moment you want it. The sinking of the ship – the technical description, the anticipation, the fear, the chaos, the humanity, the beauty, the tragedy, the spectacle – all remains shockingly convincing, both in the visual effects and the editing. When the ship is sinking there are moments of transcendence both ironic and cinematic that don't need protagonists to be achieved; the ornate and meticulous first-class dining room filling up with water and then the spectacular domed skylight shattering under a torrent of water; the half-empty lifeboats waiting in the cold while hundreds of people drown and freeze in front of them.

A spectacle that sucked the whole world down with it into the depths of its allure.

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