Martin Scorsese's THE AVIATOR
Review by Dennis D. McDonald
This is a grand, sweeping epic. Leonardo DiCaprio is onscreen constantly, recreating the personality and character of Howard Hughes, known to many of us only as a lonely old reclusive weirdo.
This movie shows us Hughes before his inner demons totally took over. In the course of nearly three hours we learn a lot about the times that Howard Hughes inhabited.
Or to put it more accurately, we learn a lot about director Martin Scorsese's take on the times inhabited by Howard Hughes. Scorsese, after all, is a richly talented movie maker. Here he has a story that makes use of the best that historic Hollywood has to offer. We see luminaries like Ava Gardner, Jane Russell, Erroll Flynn, Jean Harlow, and Kate Hepburn in the flesh as humans. We also see Old Hollywood's star making machinery at work and are reminded again that even these larger than life people put their pants on one leg at a time.
But lets face it, the trials and tribulations we see portrayed here are not the goings and comings of mere mortals. Mere mortals do not look financial and professional collapse in the eye -- and raise the stakes. And that seems to be the underlying theme here. Hughes regularly took huge chances and risks, things that no sane mortal would ever do -- and frequently he came out on top.
But it is also the sad realization portrayed here that Hughes realized his madness as consuming him, and it was one challenge he did not necessarily see himself winning, at least as portrayed so shrewdly here by Scorsese and DiCaprio.
The Aviator is a grand and uniquecombination of glamour, adventure, intrigue, spectacle, humor, tragedy, and melodrama. It's about big, famous people doing things that we expect big, famous people to do. And it uses all the power that modern filmmaking technology has to offer. But its focus, ultimately, is on people and the things they do. The fact that the people inhabit (and helped create) the world of today is a definite plus, and Scorsese makes the most of this.
The soundtrack of this movie is wonderful. Howard Shore has another winner on his hands, if only because he uses castanets so effectively.
PS - This was a difficult review to write. I loved seeing this movie and was enthralled for its entire length. But writing about something as three dimensional and (dare I say it) as "real" as a giant movie projected on a big screen is another thing entirely. The Aviator, I must conclude, is a movie with a capital M. Fortunately the story in this case lives up to the hype.