‘Titanic at 100: Mystery Solved’ is the most in-depth look at the doomed ship

Courtesy of A&E Networks

History Channel’s exquisite Titanic at 100: Mystery Solved is an educational documentary that sets out to solve many of the mysteries that surround the most famous shipwreck of all time. This expedition to the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean to view and document different parts of the Titanic’s shell has some clear motives in mind. The researchers are interested in determining whether the ship was structurally weak or strong. Did that many people have to die? What exactly went wrong? How did it sink? Did it break apart?

Amazingly, within 90 minutes, the film is able to answer many of these question marks. This is not typical reality programming where there are more furrowed brows at the end of the film. It can be safely said that Titanic at 100 discovers a lot of new material and also confirms many viewers’ assumptions.

The different approach that these researchers take is essentially a holistic one. Rather than descending down to the hull of the Titanic, like so many other explorers since the 1980s, this team canvasses the ocean floor to locate all of the debris. With a submarine-looking camera and powerful lights, they are able to gather visual evidence of the remnants from Titanic. The researchers then head back into the laboratory to piece everything together. By the documentary’s end, they have reconstructed a CGI image of the ship and developed a believable hypothesis about what exactly happened.

There’s no denying that the Titanic was “sinkable.” There’s no denying that the lifeboat situation was tragically mishandled. There’s no denying that confusion likely cost more lives. But does this all mean that the Titanic was a weak boat? The findings are eye-opening and recasts the entire tragedy in a different light.

The actual film is expertly put together, featuring images from the bottom of the ocean and plenty of footage from the researchers. We live and breathe with these explorers as they leave Newfoundland and head to the cold waters of the Atlantic. When they struggle with the gear and equipment, we see it firsthand. The tension that arises from their ordeal is put on gripping display. All of the hiccups and near misses end up in the final film, rather than on the editing room floor. This open access gives the 90-minute documentary a feeling of authenticity, much more than the manufactured feelings that come from similar programs.

Because of the monumental success of James Cameron’s Titanic, the story of this shipwreck has been somewhat hijacked by Hollywood. There’s a lot of understandable emotion tied up in the demise of this ocean-liner, and the facts have taken a backseat. We’ve decided to collectively remember the dead by focusing on Rose and Jack. Titanic at 100: Mystery Solved takes back the unbelievable story and cements it in science, exploration, research and, yes, emotion. No matter what is found on the bottom of the sea, the entire legacy of the Titanic is one drowned in tears.

By John Soltes / Publisher / John@HollywoodSoapbox.com

  • Titanic at 100: Mystery Solved

  • History Channel

  • Running time: 96 minutes

  • Rating: ★★★½

John Soltes

John Soltes is an award-winning journalist. His writing has appeared in The New York Times, Earth Island Journal, The Hollywood Reporter, New Jersey Monthly and at Time.com, among other publications. E-mail him at john@hollywoodsoapbox.com

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