Bottom Line: Worthy, captivating, and never boring; Leo at some of his best.
“The way of the future.” –Leonardo DiCaprio as Howard Hughes
Directed by: Martin Scorsese
Starring: Cate Blanchett, Kate Beckinsale, Leonardo DiCaprio
Dazzling Scorsese biopic captures the career Howard Hughes (Leonardo DiCaprio), a billionaire, a filmmaker, a philanthropist, an investor, an engineer, a lunatic, and (of course) an aviator. Within a mind-blowing three hours, everything among his various efforts are documented, starting with his cinematic breakthrough as a controversial director in the early 1930s.
Leonardo DiCaprio seems to work well in any film, as long as there is a well-recognized director attached. He does great with directors such as Baz Luhrmann, Clint Eastwood, James Cameron, and Christopher Nolan, but when it comes to working with Martin Scorsese, he casts a brighter light than ever imaginable. Like in THE DEPARTED, a slightly more recent collaboration, he takes on a thoroughly-convincing accent, though this time Southern rather than Bostonian. His personality given into portraying such a man–a man who lives the former half of his life as one of the most successful ever, and the latter half suffering increasingly from chronic pain and OCD–is grand, heartbreaking, and riveting. Maybe his performance as Hughes doesn’t begin to match his effort as cop Billy Costigan in THE DEPARTED, but it’s the number one highlight of the film.
Often, with THE AVIATOR, it is hard not to see the screenplay intertwined with the resulting images and audio of the film. That is to say, the acting, cinematography, and directing is so carefully, beautifully, robustly concentrated that we can imagine how they originated as the text in John Logan’s script. The cinematography, of the three forenamed, may be the very best. Combine the split-screen tactics used by Martin Scorsese with Howard Shore’s jazzy, nostalgic score, and you begin to sit wondering whether you are watching a colorized version of a 1930s film. It’s just that utterly convincing.
If the Academy had any sense, it would have named THE AVIATOR Best Picture rather than MILLION DOLLAR BABY. Even those who enjoyed MILLION DOLLAR BABY (one who I certainly am not) should find this much more pleasing and endearing. It’s one of those films you can’t judge by length, but rather by beauty. With the amount of beauty it has to offer, three hours will feel like half as long.