James Cameron's Titanic is an engrossing film, epic in scope yet focused on the individual players. It is a romance, certainly, but a classic one that will appeal even to non-romantics because it is a good story first and foremost. While there is nothing particularly original about the plot, it is a universal and timeless tale, well-told: doomed love attempting to escape the shackles of modern society; man's hubris resulting in their inevitable demise. Where it succeeds is in allowing the plot to go where the characters find themselves, instead of forcing the characters down the writer's pre-ordained path.
The technical achievements in the film are extraordinary for the time, and mesmerizing still. The cinematography and special effects are awe-inspiring, and the editing keeps the 3 hour movie surprisingly brisk and fast-paced. The acting, however, is where the movie really shines. Not only impressive for their ages, but impressive in their own right, DiCaprio and Winslet give heart-wrenching and breathtaking performances. I somehow forgot that they can make your heart skip with anticipation, with dread, with hope. You really care for the leads, and the stakes are raised that much higher when the big ship starts its slow descent.
The movie isn't perfect. It has a somewhat silly narrator structure wrapped around the perfectly self-sufficient story, and Bill Paxton's acting therein just left me cold. The script is also full of sailing cliches and movie tropes, from the captain sinking with the ship to the overly noble orchestra playing waltzes while the Titanic literally sinks inch by inch. Even if that stuff actually happened, that shouldn't have been the focus of the movie. Regardless, I finally appreciate why this movie holds such power to nearly everybody who watches it. It is a phenomenal achievement all around.
IMDb link: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0120338/