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.

 

The series' 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.

 

    

Sexual Content:

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.

  

Language:

Scattered mild profanities; a half dozen exclamations of Jesus/Christ's name.

  

Violence:

A man's leg is sliced open by falling steel; we see the gory, gaping wound; men are shot and beat up in riots.

 

Other:

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.

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