• Film

The Aviator


Time Out says

Despite a pacy, technically brilliant but otherwise slightly ordinary first half-hour or so, Scorsese’s Howard Hughes movie is his best since ‘The Age of Innocence’. The tycoon is presented – empathetically? – as an independent-minded American visionary: this celebration of rugged individualism ends conveniently in 1947 with the (single) successful flight of his titanic Hercules, nicknamed ‘Spruce Goose’, and a courageous, corrosively witty courtroom stand against corrupt Senator Brewster (Alan Alda, gloriously venal); it never feels the need to broach the more notorious lunacies of later years. Yes, Howie’s eccentric – aren’t all visionaries? – deaf and troubled, but as incarnated by Leo DiCaprio, he’s also a cute, charismatic, all-round nice guy. Heck, his capitalistic excesses must’ve been just another example of his special genius, like his passion for flight and his chat-up routines. This is Hughes as populist hero, a twentieth-century pioneer. (A friend reckons it’s like ‘Tucker’, which it is, albeit rather darker.)

Actually, DiCaprio’s excellent, gaining depth and subtlety as Hughes ages. One may question the wisdom of having Cate Blanchett mimic Kate Hepburn – though it’s a very good impersonation, it means one’s continually comparing it to the original, instead of simply accepting her as a character, as one does with Kate Beckinsale’s Ava Gardner – but the cast (which includes Alec Baldwin, John C Reilly and Ian Holm) generally perform beautifully, though mostly in minute roles. In terms of time, space and impact, it’s the lead’s film, and he’s far better here than in ‘Gangs of New York’.

So is Scorsese, coming into his own when his hero cracks, steering the mise-en-scène into an expressionist register reminiscent of films by Michael Powell or Nick Ray. There’s some early Hawks, Sternberg and Sirk in there too, which suggests the richness of a visual/narrative style entirely in keeping with the subject. After all, Hughes wasn’t just about money, planes and cleavages; he made movies too, which clearly makes him okay in Marty’s book.

Release Details

  • Rated:12A
  • Release date:Friday 24 December 2004
  • Duration:170 mins

Cast and crew

  • Director:Martin Scorsese
  • Screenwriter:John Logan
  • Cast:
    • Adam Scott
    • Gwen Stefani
    • Ian Holm
    • Leonardo DiCaprio
    • Kelli Garner
    • Alan Alda
    • Cate Blanchett
    • Kate Beckinsale
    • Alec Baldwin
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