Britannic [2000]

The ocean liner Britannic was the sister ship of the Titanic, and it suffered a similar, though far less celebrated, fate, sinking quickly in the Mediterranean during World War I. The mysterious circumstances of the Britannic's demise, in which an unexplained explosion ripped a huge hole in its hull, are the underpinnings of this made-for-TV movie. Historians have long debated whether the massive liner, which had been pressed into service as a British hospital ship, was sunk by a stray mine or a German torpedo, but this production centers on German saboteurs aboard the ship. Amanda Ryan turns in a lively performance as a plucky British intelligence operative who battles sexism as well as German spies, while the biggest name in the cast, Jacqueline Bisset, has a mostly extraneous role as a British socialite. Just as the ship Britannic has always taken second place to the more famous Titanic, this production suffers when the obvious comparisons are made with James Cameron's blockbuster. There are scenes, including some watery escapes below decks in the sinking liner, that seem virtually modeled on the big-screen Titanic, and the computer-generated images of Britannic are often glaringly obvious. But there is enough of a plot to keep a viewer's interest, and action scenes, such as gun battles in the engine rooms, to keep the plot steaming along. --Robert J. McNamara

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