FBMR - The Aviator
Film-Buff Movie Reviews

THE AVIATOR (2004) **1/2

If a film is close to three hours long, there should be a very good reason behind it. With the present state of the modern attention span, it is sometimes difficult to keep a person’s attention for more than an hour. Most movies are between an hour and a half and two hours. Martin Scorsese pushes the three-hour envelope with this Howard Hughes bio-pic. Granted, there was a lot packed into these three hours, but not everything was gripping. I found that some sections dragged on and on and, even though they showed insight into Hughes’ personality and life, they weren’t all particularly interesting, or they could have been edited tighter.

Howard Hughes was an inventor, an innovator, and a risk-taker. He came from a family with oil-money, and lost his parents at a young age. He was an aspiring filmmaker, a pilot, and a dreamer. Then, throw in some obsessive-compulsive behaviour and germ paranoia. He had a very particular vision when he embarked on a project, and it had to be done his way, regardless of time or money. In his earlier years, he was quite the ladies man. He has been linked with Jean Harlow, Katherine Hepburn, and Ava Gardner, to name a few. He owned several large companies, and had multiple projects on the go at the same time, most of them related to airplanes. He had a desire to go fast, to build big, and be the first. But his competitors soon found out about his quirks and knew what buttons to push to get him riled up. His largest nemesis, as it were, was Juan Trippe, president of Pan-American Airlines. Trippe was frightened of Hughes’ airline plans for TWA and tried to beat Hughes at his game and corner the overseas market, thereby crippling TWA.

Some of the best scenes in this film were when Hughes was explaining his ideas or defending himself. He was a very smart, very clever man, a very good speaker, and very charismatic (quirks aside). It was almost exciting just to watch him speak with such passion. The flight scenes were also well done.

Leonardo DiCaprio has done a remarkable job. But then again, I have never seen any actual pictures or footage of Howard Hughes to know how true his portrayal was. I can only guess. He also portrayed the neurotic side of Hughes very well. It was also a very brave performance, especially in the scenes where Hughes locked himself in his screening room. Being a “heart-throb”, and showing the very physically unattractive side of Hughes was a big step. Another wonderful performance was Cate Blanchett’s portrayal of the rough-around-the-edges, out-spoken, quasi-tomboy Katherine Hepburn. Well deserving of the Oscar nomination.

Hollywood must really like this film because it received ten Academy Award nominations, including Best Picture and Director, neither of which I think it deserves to win. But it was a very ambitious and large film, with a huge cast … but then again, Howard Hughes was very ambitious, and all of his projects were large, so I guess it fits.