Sunday, December 26, 2004

The Aviator

In Martin Scorsese's The Aviator, Leonardo Di Caprio portrays Howard Hughes, the legendary builder of some of aviation's modern technologies and pioneer of Hollywood's independent filmmaking.

Hughes is a big dreamer who sees no limitation in what he can do. He produced the classic "Hell's Angel's" at such a massive cost unheard of in Hollywood not for personal aggrandizement but to enthuse the public at how wondrous flying can be.

He is a risk-taker who exposed his family's oil fortune to near bankruptcy just so he could finance his ambitious projects. He is a perfectionist who sees no cost in accomplishing his desired perfection. He is a playboy who romanced some of Hollywood's most glamorous women.

But, of all that he is, his phobic attacks and freakish fear of sickness and viral contamination limited him to a man whose irrational worries constrict him and brings about his personal falldown not uncommon in successful and over-achieving people.

Scorsese has crafted a fabulously perfect film. His marvelous and stunning film offers glorious storytelling that is filled with lavish visuals and inspired performances that certainly deserves all the critical accolades that it is receiving. His recreation of the chaotic filming of "Hell's Angels" and his decision to put it in the film's beginning effectively lifts the film off: while it earnestly introduces the viewer to the Howard Hughes character, it also sets of the entire film into a soaring filmmaking masterpiece.

Di Caprio's manic and confident swagger provides the film its very distinct performance. He is in almost every frame in the movie and he doesn't tire at all. He is most brilliant when Hughes spirals down into madness and locks himself up for weeks in his studio room.

Cate Blanchett channels the late great actress Katharine Hepburn with an amazing and graceful performance worthy of an Oscar nomination. Jude Law cameos as Errol Flynn and Kate Beckinsale does a vivacious Ava Gardner in this movie filled with real-life characters painted in not so reverent way but also never demeaning and critical.

In one of the film's tense and dramatic highlights, Hughes is summoned by the Senate to answer the allegations made by one corrupt senator that he was a war profiteer. Hughes rises to the occasion (remarkably, that is, because this took place just after he locked himself up for weeks) and defeats the senator who is reduced to answering questions on his integrity.

It was during this hearing that Hughes made the promise that if the collosal aircraft he was building doesn't fly, he wil leave America and never do business again. But, the plane does fly and along with it the film soars to staggering heights.

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