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THE AVIATOR, 2004
Movie Review

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THE AVIATOR MOVIE POSTER
THE AVIATOR, 2004
Movie Reviews

Directed by Martin Scorsese
Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Cate Blanchett, Kate Beckinsale, John C Reilly, Alec Baldwin, Alan Alda,
Review by Will Pond



SYNOPSIS:

A biopic depicting the early years of legendary director and aviator Howard Hughes' career, from the late 1920s to the mid-1940s.

OSCAR winner for Best Editing, Best Cinematography, Best Costume Design, Best Costume Design, Best Supporting Actress (Cate Blanchett)

OSCAR NOMINATED for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Screenplay, Best Actor (DiCaprio), Best Supporting Actress (Alda), Best Sound Mixing

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REVIEW:

Everyone, Scorsese is back. After years filtering between projects in what will one day be read as his own period of creative strive Scorsese has centered his attention on a film which retrains both his strong athstetic creativity and fulfils his desire to create epic character portraits around flawed individuals, ‘The Aviator’ is Scorsese’ best work since ‘Goodfellas’. Leonardo DiCaprio plays Howard Hughes, the reclusive film director, businessman and aviator. Rather than stretching the audience’s attention to a full life biopic Scorsese cleverly focuses on a 20 year period in Hughes life; as always interested with questions rather than answers Scorsese attempts to dissect the slow development of Hughes’ ODC (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder) and create a portrait of the man underneath the legend.

Scorsese brings together a large cast and from his ensemble draws out subtle, mesmerising and truly mature performances. Scorsese successfully restrains Dicaprio’s trademark frustration and leads him to his best and most matured performance yet, Dicaprio immerses himself in the role and whilst he has often displayed a lack of subtly in his performances in the past, in the character of Hughes Dicaprio is on solid ground. Hughes was a man who did not displayed subtlety; he drank recklessly, spent recklessly, womanised recklessly and struggled to retain his emotions. Dicaprio builds a kinetic performance which relies on pace as a method to reading the man’s emotional state, in moments of extreme discomfort and anxiousness if his body isn’t moving his eyes will be, and if not if eyes are still and focuses than his lips move, incoherently repeating phrases.

The Aviators supporting cast is comprised of well known, talented and reliable actors and actresses most notable among them Alan Alda, John C. Reily and Ian Holm. Cate Blanchett shines at Katharine Hepburn, she draws the eye in every scene she is in and matches Dicaprio’s performance, Blanchett’s academy award for best supporting performance is well deserved. She is dynamic, out right and can match Hughes’ obsessive work pace and personnel habits, during an initial meeting at a gold course John Logan’s script evokes the quick witted 1930’s and 40’s screwball comedies (such as those by Howard Hawks) Hepburn is also the only character to announce and control their departure from Hughes’ life as opposed to be being slowly pushed out of the frame.

Scorsese’ masterful grasp of film form and structure is clearly evident in ‘The Aviator’, the director’s use of cinematography, editing and production design shapes not just the audiences perception of Howard Hughes’ but also the social and political space in which the character inhabits and his emotional state. ‘The ‘Aviator’ like its title character is a narcissistic film which dedicates itself only to Huges, characters drift in and out of the frame and political events take place secondary to personnel matters, in an example the audience are only informed to the declaration of the Second World War after it becomes a personnel matter of Hughes’ aviation company.

The cinematography mimics the use of primitive celluloid colourisation used in the contemporary period to a scene, much of the film is glazed in high contrast blues and greens. Scorsese cleverly uses the colourisation of a scene to reflect Hughes’ own psychological state, in the films first hour he shines as romantic leading man (wooing Hepburn) and action hero, warring against impossible odds and even the official censorship boards to successful release his pictures to great acclaim. Scorsese than juxtaposes this to much of the second half of the film which takes place in gritty darkness, not notably in the scenes involving Hughes’ battle against his own OCD condition. The camera constantly moves throughout the film complementing the kinetic edit and Hughes’ own frantic working pace and speed of thought.

Scorsese’ ‘The Aviator’ is focused, highly creative and in consideration to its very long running time, completely entertaining and enthralling. Scorsese brings together many narrative themes which he has repeatedly addressed over his 30 year body of work, such as the self destructive male figure (Identifiable in both ‘Raging Bull’ and ‘Goodfellas’). Scorsese’ film rewards upon repeated viewings as the performances complexities can be deconstructed and the figure of Howard Hughes becomes more and more interesting, one can hope this begins a new renewed era in Scorsese’ career.

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