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Is Unsinkable Accurate to the True Story of the Titanic?


Is Unsinkable Accurate to the True Story of the Titanic?


Summary

  • Unsinkable: Titanic Untold
    shifts focus from impact to aftermath & holds accountable those involved in the Titanic disaster.
  • The film brings history to life with real-life coverage, truth in investigative proceedings & dramatic retellings of harsh realities.
  • Detailed depictions of the U.S. Senate inquiry, the portrayal of iconic figures, and the stories of courage contribute to the richness of the narrative.



Director Cody Hartman’s latest film, Unsinkable: Titanic Untold, puts a rather unique spin on one of the most notable maritime disasters in history. While other movies that take a look at this deadly event revolve around the moment of impact and spotlight fictional characters that are immediately affected by the iceberg crash (such as James Cameron’s Titanic from 1997 and Roy Ward Baker’s A Night to Remember from 1958), the April 2024 release majorly shifts the attention to the aftermath of the Titanic and who should ultimately be held accountable for its unfortunate demise.


Going one step deeper into history, Unsinkable then spotlights real-life senator William Alden Smith (played by The Americans’ Cotter Smith), his assistant Maggie Malloy (brought to life by actress Jayne Wisener), and journalist Alaine Ricard as they do their best to not only solve this riveting question but also navigate the many complexities of the situation at hand. This includes why the investigation was so questionably handled and the reasoning behind so many different political systems being connected to this ocean liner.

One question that comes to mind when watching these historical depictions is how accurate they are to the original event. Given that Unsinkable takes a unique view and tells the untold story, it’s only natural that viewers would want to pinpoint the details from the movie that relate to the real story. This includes settings, character traits, and situations.


Is Mr. Smith just as trivial with his interrogative questions in Unsinkable as he was in real life? Did the hearings actually take place at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel? And most peculiarly, did the band play the entire time the Titanic was sinking? Let’s answer these questions and more as we compare what was shown in Unsinkable: Titanic Untold to actual history (as much as we can gather, that is).


Looking at Unsinkable: The Titanic Untold’s Senate Inquiries

Read Our Review

Let’s begin with the United States Senate inquiry, which turned into some very important and impactful sequences in this movie. There’s no question about actor Cotter Smith in the shoes of the notorious senator. He certainly conveys someone who will leave no stone unturned. The authenticity regarding these scenes, though, is instead found in other aspects, like who he speaks to and the locations featured.


As the movie explicitly states (in the form of a small title card), the first hearings of the formal investigation are supposedly held in the Waldorf Astoria New York hotel—and this is correct. At that time, Congress was rushing to act before survivors left the New York City area and decided on this locale to stage the sessions.

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Some real-life names asked about that treacherous night out at sea on Apr. 14th through the 15th were J. Bruce Ismay (the highest-ranking White Star official on board) and Charles Lightholler (second officer on the ship). Like the Waldorf, they are also a part of this movie (played by actors Sam Turich and Brendan Griffin, respectively). With Turich, Griffin, and others able to show the severity and uneasiness of the situation, those behind Unsinkable also showed these investigation proceedings taking place in Washington DC (specifically the Russell Senate Office Building), which took place later in factual history.


Is It True That Titanic Lifeboats Weren’t at Max Capacity?

A surprising part of the film occurs when the media (in this case, the newspapers) suddenly portray Senator Smith in a bad light. First-time audiences might think this was made up to add some intensity to the already dramatic retelling, but it is true. The British maritime industry (as well as the honorable British society) took his investigational inquiry as an insult.

Even though his questions were at first seen as silly (the British media called him Watertight Smith, for example), Unsinkable takes time to show that Smith’s questioning led to some rather hidden truths—like his inquiry about what an iceberg is made out of and his question about certain compartments on the ship—which took place in the movie and during the actual hearings over 100 years ago.


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In a more serious tone, though (and to add even more depth to this story), the film also presents some harrowing facts that are hard to believe: lifeboats were only filled to sixty percent, there were some ships out there that had failed to come to the rescue of the Titanic and that the doomed ship’s orchestra played on during those hellish moments. These all hold truth. The lifeboats weren’t accurately analyzed, according to Encyclopedia Titanica, because of a canceled drill earlier in the day, though the reason for the cancelation has been disputed; the SS Californian was within range but failed to act and, while not exactly to the moment of their untimely demise (as they were supposedly found with the instruments in their casing near them in reality), the musicians did, in fact, play to try and calm the chaos while lifeboats were being filled.


A Woman Who Chose Not to Leave the Titanic

Putting aside the many officials and the situational events involved in Unsinkable, there are also a couple of characters that we should explore. During the hectic evacuation of the Titanic, we encounter a woman named Ida Strauss, who is advised to board a lifeboat along with the rest of the women and children. She made a brave choice and decided to stay on the ship with her husband, Isidor. Ida and Isidor were really husband and wife and were headed back home to New York after spending the winter in England. The tale of the couple, as detailed by Titanic Belfast, has been celebrated for their courageousness throughout time.


Lastly, Alaine Ricard (played by actress Fiona Dourif) is an investigative journalist who helps Senator Smith uncover a winding conspiracy that connects the Titanic to J.P Morgan in some very deviant ways. While the theories themselves can be talked about forever, Ricard seems to be a fictional character made for the movie. In this case, that is fine as she provides a necessary street-level view into the effects of the Titanic’s end.

Hartman’s upcoming production does a fine job conveying a cinematic and entertaining story while also delivering the truth regarding this harrowing disaster in world history. All this tense aftermath is rarely discussed, and it’s great that this is finally brought to modern audiences. While additional characters may be inserted (like Ms. Ricard) or situational context may be framed favorably (such as the orchestra players), nothing is done that outright skews the authenticity factor. Unsinkable: Titanic Untold will have a limited theatrical run starting Apr. 12, 2024.

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