The Aviator

"Excellent"

The Aviator Review


The mythology of Howard Hughes is quite possibly bigger than the man could ever live up to. Already the subject of a handful of movies and over 100 books, the particulars of the Hughes legend are widely known. But leave it to Martin Scorsese to spin the eccentric's life into a more coherent -- if sprawling -- mass.

As its title would imply, The Aviator focuses Hughes through the lens of the airplane, his greatest passion in the world. Hughes is known for many things -- business, movies, his women, hypochondria, political scandal (the lattermost is barely touched in this film) -- but it's his love of and scientific advances with aircraft that have had the most lasting effects on society.

After a short intro, we pick up with Hughes (Leonardo Dicaprio) in the late 1920s, directing his classic film Hell's Angels. Having abandoned Houston due to its predilection for cholera and typhus, Hughes is attacking Hollywood instead and letting his parents' tool business run itself thanks to a new manager (John C. Reilly). Hughes is in the midst of staging the most grandiose spectacle ever on film, a massive war movie with dozens of planes from his own air force. As expected, the film is way over budget (as if there was a budget to begin with), and Hughes's perfection and vanity is causing delays and other problems galore, nearly bankrupting him.

Years later, the movie is finished, and it's a huge hit, and Hughes is back on top. Meanwhile, he turns his attentions to building high-speed aircraft, determined to become the next Lindbergh, to fly faster and farther than any other man. (This he does, in spades, nearly killing himself in the process -- most notably by crashing an experimental spy plane in Beverly Hills.)

And then there are Hughes's great loves, Katharine Hepburn (Cate Blanchett) and Ava Gardner (Kate Beckinsale) being chief among them. And all the while, poor Howard is going crazy with his famous germ phobia, culminating in a month-long milk bender while locked in his personal screening room.

You might get the impression from this description that The Aviator jumps all over the map with its biography of Hughes, and you'd be right. It's strange, because even though Scorsese has a single subject to follow here (unlike, say, Gangs of New York), it's still tough to put a finger directly on what makes Hughes tick. It's not really Marty's fault -- many other biographers have tried and failed. And The Aviator is a damn good movie. It's just this far from being a classic.

Pacing is the biggest issue: The Aviator yo-yos between scenes of edge-of-your-seat action (namely anything involving airplanes) and moments where nothing much happens. Sure, you need to give your audience a breather once in a while, but when your movie is three hours long, you really don't need to catch your breath quite so often.

DiCaprio once again turns in a nuanced and deeply Method-ized performance as Hughes; he really seems to get what makes the man larger than life, at least as far as a character in the movie. But I have no doubt most of the fawning press will fall on Blanchett, whose performance as Hepburn is more of a creepy impersonation than anything you might call "acting." She doesn't really look like Hepburn, and the accent's not really right, but she has the mannerisms and speech cadence down cold. The effect is a bit like watching a high quality Vegas drag act -- but I can guarantee that the nostalgia set will see it differently; she'll undoubtedly get an Oscar nomination, and possibly win the thing.

My final beef is with The Aviator's prodigious use of CGI, which is overdone to a fault. Frankly, we've seen better phony action sequences in movies made two or three years ago -- and those were with much more complicated models. A biplane isn't that hard to make in a computer -- but it might have helped to suspend disbelief if the movie had a couple of fewer shots of planes flying straight into the camera to the point where both would have been destroyed.

Scorsese doesn't try to hide Hughes's dirty laundry, though he's a bit vague about a certain episode where he hired a 15-year-old girl to basically be his mistress, among other episodes. A lot of The Aviator feels made for cinema insiders: Blink and you'll miss Gwen Stefani as Jean Harlow, Jude Law as Errol Flynn, and a handful of other period stars. (Be sure to watch for the Fatty Arbuckle gag.)

Judicious editing has never been Scorsese's forte, but his work here doesn't suffer as much as it probably ought to considering its indulgent length. Then again, I'm getting a little long-winded here. You've got the information you need, and you know, I really need to wash my hands.

The DVD features a commentary from Scorsese and an impressive bevy of extras on a second disc. Never mind the (one) deleted scene, you also get about a dozen making-of docs that focus on everything from sets to costume design, plus a few featurettes about Howard Hughes. Highly recommended.

Aviator? I don't even know 'er!



The Aviator

Facts and Figures

Run time: 170 mins

In Theaters: Saturday 25th December 2004

Box Office USA: $102.6M

Box Office Worldwide: $102M

Budget: $116M

Distributed by: Miramax

Production compaines: IMF Internationale Medien und Film GmbH & Co. 3. Produktions KG, Forward Pass, Miramax Films, Warner Bros. Pictures, Initial Entertainment Group (IEG), Appian Way

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 4 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 87%
Fresh: 186 Rotten: 27

IMDB: 7.5 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director:

Producer: , , Charles Evans Jr., ,

Starring: as Howard Hughes, as Katharine Hepburn, as Ava Gardner, John C. Reilly as Noah Dietrich, as Juan Trippe, as Senator Ralph Owen Brewster, as Professor Fitz, as Errol Flynn, as Faith Domergue, as Jack Frye, as Robert Gross, as Roland Sweet, as Jean Harlow, as Johnny Meyer, as Glenn Odekirk, as Mrs. Hepburn, as Louis B. Mayer, Keith Campbell as Marine

Contactmusic


Links



Advertisement

New Movies

Julieta Movie Review

Julieta Movie Review

Iconic Spanish filmmaker Pedro Almodovar is back with another powerfully complex female-centred drama, along the...

Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping Movie Review

Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping Movie Review

An astute satire of the pop music business, this raucous mock-documentary is consistently hilarious from...

War Dogs Movie Review

War Dogs Movie Review

Based on a rather astounding true story, this comedy-drama centres on two stoners who landed...

Swallows and Amazons Movie Review

Swallows and Amazons Movie Review

After a number of films, TV series and stage adaptations, Arthur Ransome's beloved 1930 novel...

David Brent: Life on the Road Movie Review

David Brent: Life on the Road Movie Review

The original BBC sitcom The Office ran for 14 episodes from 2001 to 2003, and...

The Childhood of a Leader Movie Review

The Childhood of a Leader Movie Review

Bold and intelligent, this dark drama is a challenging portrait of the making of an...

Pete's Dragon Movie Review

Pete's Dragon Movie Review

This hugely enjoyable adventure is a loose remake of the 1977 Disney hit that blended...

Advertisement
The Shallows Movie Review

The Shallows Movie Review

With a simple premise and plenty of visual style, Spanish filmmaker Jaume Collet-Serra (Unknown) takes...

Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates Movie Review

Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates Movie Review

Watching this gross-out comedy, it's clear that the gifted cast and crew had a great...

Nerve Movie Review

Nerve Movie Review

With a premise that feels almost eerily current, this stylish thriller revolves around a phone...

The Carer Movie Review

The Carer Movie Review

Brian Cox gets the role of a lifetime in this warm comedy about living life...

Born to Be Blue Movie Review

Born to Be Blue Movie Review

Writer-director Robert Budreau takes a stylised approach to this biopic of the legendary jazz artist...

Jason Bourne Movie Review

Jason Bourne Movie Review

It's been nine years since Matt Damon and Paul Greengrass collaborated on The Bourne Ultimatum,...

The Commune [Kollektivet] Movie Review

The Commune [Kollektivet] Movie Review

Veteran Danish filmmaker Thomas Vinterberg (Festen, The Hunt) returns to a smaller homegrown story after...

Advertisement
Artists
Actors
    Filmmakers
      Artists
      Bands
        Musicians
          Artists
          Celebrities
             
              Artists
              Interviews
                musicians & bands in the news
                  actors & filmmakers in the news
                    celebrities in the news

                      Go Back in Time using our News archive to see what happened on a particular day in the past.