The Aviator (2004)
Martin Scorsese's Howard Hughes-biopic is massive, spectacular and vivid. It puts new focus on one of the 20th century's most extravagant and colourful figures in not only filmmaking and aviation but in the entire celebrity-scene. It is in many ways a thankful task to portray someone as multitalented and eccentric as Hughes, but it also makes for a demanding process being able to keep the focus right. Scorsese's direction is tight and trusty, albeit ultimately a bit too ambitious. At times the film loses its momentum and at times it forsakes important aspects, but The Aviator still manages to remain highly interesting and potent throughout.
Casting Leonardo DiCaprio in the lead is somewhat of a gamble. He doesn't look the part, isn't a likely match for neither Cate Blanchett nor Katherine Hepburn and doesn't age convincingly. Still, DiCaprio's performance is a powerhouse. He has surprisingly few problems carrying the film on his shoulders and yet again displays his undeniable talent. In some of the darker scenes in the film (notably Hughes' period of isolation in the screening-room), DiCaprio has moments where he overplays, but then again these scenes aren't particularly well directed or edited either, so Scorsese will have to share the burden with him. The film has other flaws too, particularly the not very convincing romantic segments which suffer from miscasting or lack of screentime. Blanchett is good (maybe a bit too good) as Hepburn, but Kate Beckinsale is a failure as Ava Gardner, and the Faith Domergue character is unestablished and unnecessary. The rest of the supporting cast is fine however, with special notice to a delightfully sleazy (and surprisingly vivacious) Alan Alda, a nuanced Alec Baldwin and a totally amusing Ian Holm.
All in all, The Aviator is a
compelling and fascinating movie. Scorsese's best work with the film is
the way he captures life in the golden age of Hollywood both in tone and
visuals. He has an interesting approach to the film's colouring; letting his
images reflect the film-standards of the periods he depicts. It makes
for a joyful ride and particularly so for people interested in the
history of film. The Aviator presents one of the most colourful and important
personalities from the previous century, and it does so with respect and
accuracy. Had it also been a bit better focused, it could have ranked
among Scorsese's best.