Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Titanic: Blood And Steel Not To Be Missed

Are you up for yet another retelling of the Titanic story?
Is so then the TV docudrama Titanic: Blood And Steel is for you.
It's the latest in a curious phenomenon: the Canadian co-production. Think The Tudors, Camelot, The Borgias all of which are considered Canadian content because of the cast and creators.
In this case two Canadians are at the top of the starring credits: Kevin Zegers who almost always does not do TV  and Neve Campbell whose big TV credit was Party Of Five.
The 12-part miniseries Titanic: Blood And Steel comes from Irish TV's Epos Films with a significant stake in production by the Irish government and with crack Irish director Ciaran Donnelly.
Stop! I know what you're going to say, well sort of) seen one Titanic saga, seen them all.
But you haven't, trust me.
This one looks at the politics that went into the making of the great luxury liner at Belfast ship yards (although the series was  mostly filmed in Dublin and Serbia ).
It's also an examination of the seething religious schism of the city pitting Catholic and Protestant workers against each other.
In sort it's not another Titanic movie. In fact it ends before the great liner sinks --that tragedy has already been dramatized in both movies and TV movies.
Of course on TV success depends on timing and the hoopla over the 100th anniversary of the sinking rose and fell last April.
This Titanic looks at other things and I think succeeds right well although the first hour may be criticized for dawdling as it introduces its main characters.
Zegers is front and center as the mysterious Mark Muir who holds a doctorate in metallurgy --we'll learn as time goes by that he has largely created his persona and is deeply critical of the methods for building the world's largest luxury passenger ship.
Twelve hours of watching a ship being built won't be enough for most viewers so other characters are introduced. At the top is Chris Noth impressive as J.P. Morgan who was the chief financier.
Head of the building consortium is Lord Piirrir played with gusto by Derek Jacobi.
Nev Campbell playa the journalist Joanna who is also a suffragette in true Edwardian tradition.
And the fine Irish actor Liam Cunningham is labor organizer Jim Larkin.
By the way Muir is a completely fictional creation although Morgan and Pirrie actually did exist.
To me the whole background is historically exciting when fleshed out. And the sets are often spectacular. You'll gasp as the hull of the Titanic is hammered into being.
It takes a while to get interested in Zeger's character --I'm still thinking how terrific the young actor was in Transamerica. But his accent is just right and the addition of a moustache makes him seem entirely right in historical terms. And at 27 he's almost Muir's age.
Titanic: Blood And Steel has already aired on Italian, German and Danish TV and the U.S. cable service Encore will start a run in October. As CBC's big European import of the season it's serious stuff but chock full of human emotion, too.
But the key question remains: how much Titanic is enough for you?
MY RATING: *** 1/2.

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