Titanic: Blood & Steel (2012)
Reviewer: Charity Bishop
It's been awhile since a miniseries this good crossed the
Atlantic. Titanic: Blood & Steel proves there are
still ways to approach material that has been revisited on
the big and small screens in new and appealing ways. From
the laying of the hull to her departure from Belfast, this
is the story of the workers, businessmen, and common
Irishmen impacted through the construction process of the
most famous ship in history.
The year is 1909. American businessman J.P. Morgan (Chris
Noth) has provided the financial banking for three magnificent ships, his favorite among them the
RMS Titanic. Ambitious young Marc Meur (Kevin
Zegers) is eager to be in at the ground floor. Fresh off steel-testing for an American warship, he offers his services to Morgan’s business partner Lord Pirrie (Derek Jacobi) to ensure that their ship is the safest, most reliable vessel
at sea. Taken under the wing of the ship’s designer, Thomas Andrews (Billy
Carter), it doesn’t take Marc long to settle in… and start having serious doubts about the way
Titanic is being constructed. But that is the least
of Belfast's problems.
The shipping yard is faced with strife when popular
liberal unionist Jim Larkin (Liam Cunningham) tries to rally the Irish workers. Lovely young copier Sofia (Alessandra Mastronardi) is caught up in the movement, much to the distress of her traditional Italian father. Then, there is the aristocratic Kitty (Ophelia
Lovibond), vying for the attention of Marc.
Over three years, the miniseries plays out against a
backdrop of political upheaval and unrest, board inquiries
as to whether or not the White Star ships are "too big," and
the collision of the Olympic's impact on the
construction of Titanic's hull.
strengths are its historical figures, such as the
open-minded Pirrie (Jacobi at his finest) and the
perfectionist, driven Andrews, who is depicted as I have always
imagined him to be, soft-spoken and heroic. Its weaknesses lie in its lack of
understanding for the social and sexual aspects of the
period as well as its unlikable leading man. When it comes
to historical accuracy, it relies more on fiction than fact to tell its story but somehow
it never seems too troubling. The politics of the era are explored: the struggle to unionize Ireland, the rivalries between Catholic and Protestant fractions, even a foray into the beginnings of the Irish Republican Army.
It was an expensive miniseries and it shows not only in the terrific cast but the incredible
detail on the ships, their construction, the shipyards, and
the lavish interiors. It's proof that no topic is ever
overdone to such an extent that it can't be approached
through a new perspective. The conclusion is ominous and the
futures of everyone (save poor Andrews) are unclear, for the
series ends as Titanic embarks on her icy maiden
voyage with most of the main cast aboard. Some might see its
abrupt conclusion as disappointing, but for me it left the
characters in a happy situation that enables us to make up
our own conclusion toward their fates -- whether or not our
preferences are practical.
While I didn't like its immorality (which fortunately
never goes beyond implications) it held my attention and
gave me twelve hours spent in the companionship of Lord
Pirrie and Thomas Andrews... and as an amateur RMS
Titanic historian, for that, I'm grateful.
Implications of premarital sex (unmarried couples
snuggling in bed together several times; a man and
woman undress and kiss one another; pregnancy out of
wedlock); groping, partial undressing, and kissing happen before an
interruption; references to affairs; two characters
have children out of wedlock.
Scattered mild profanities; a half dozen
exclamations of Jesus/Christ's name.
A man's leg is sliced open by falling steel; we
see the gory, gaping wound; men are shot and beat up
Characters profess to be Catholic or Protestant, but
their behavior reveals it is only political and not any kind
of religious conviction on their part. (One even abuses
Jesus' name in church.) Drinking/smoking.