The last time Leonardo DiCaprio and Martin Scorsese paired-up, it was
for the disastrous Gangs of New York, a movie that had no clue as to what,
exactly, it wanted to be. It tried to be everything and wound up a giant,
bloated mess of a movie. The Aviator, while not as focused as it could
be, is a much more cohesive project that had me captivated throughout
its not quite three hour running time.
Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Cate Blanchett,
and Kate Beckinsale
Beginning in Los Angeles in
the late 1920s, we see the young Howard Hughes (Leonardo DiCaprio) trying
to complete his ambitious war film, "Hell's
Angels." At the time, the movie was the most expensive film ever
made and Hughes' reckless abandon to finish the movie typifies the way
Hughes did everything: Get it done but don't worry about the cost. This
attitude made him a lot of enemies in life and, if that wasn't enough,
Hughes also had to worry about his ever-worsening obsessive-compulsive
behavior and mysophobia (fear of germs).
Aviator follows Hughes from his film days through his brief but notable
achievements in aviation history. We see him break speed records, buy
TWA Airlines, and envision The Hercules, the world's largest airplane.
The latter brings on the scrutiny of Senator Owen Brewster (Alan Alda),
who is in cahoots with Juan Trippe (Alec Baldwin), who runs Hughes' main
competitor, Pan American Airlines. Trying to force Hughes into supporting
a bill that will give Pan Am the exclusive right to international flights,
the FBI tries to dig up dirt on Hughes' eccentric behavior and business
practices. Rather than submit, Hughes fights them head-on in a Senate
hearing in one of the best scenes in the film.
nearly three hours, The
Aviator never seems too long or boring. Interesting and engaging
from the first shot to the last, Scorsese presents the enigmatic
Hughes as a simultaneously sympathetic and stubborn character. It's easy
to feel sorry for him in the scenes where he knows his behavior isn't "normal" and
tries to rein himself back in control of his faculties. Leonardo DiCaprio's
performance is excellent and provides the majority of the film's power.
His Oscar nomination was definitely justified.
Equally impressive, if not more so, are Alan Alda as Senator Brewster
and Cate Blanchett as Katherine Hepburn. Blanchett, in particular, chews
up the scenery as the boisterous Hepburn, who proved to he Hughes' match
Aviator ends, however, not so much with a climax as an abrupt finish.
As much as I was enjoying the film, another hour would have been welcome.
I suppose that Hughes' accomplishments following the timeline of the film
wouldn't have made for much of a film experience, but I desperately wanted
to know more about him after watching The Aviator. I suppose that means
the film did its job quite well.
the most Academy Award nominations for the year 2004, with 11 total.
Internet Movie Database)