Sunday, November 13, 2011

Movie with Abe: J. Edgar

J. Edgar
Directed by Clint Eastwood
Released November 9, 2011

In the past two decades, Clint Eastwood has proven himself to be an enormously talented director. His films consistently feature strong storytelling, top-notch performances, and excellent aesthetic qualities. Even his less impressive films, such as “Hereafter” and “Flags of Our Fathers,” are compelling cinematic presentations. Eastwood’s 2009 biopic “Invictus” was an excellent portrait of one prominent historical figure, and for his latest film, he returns to his home country to tell the story of J. Edgar Hoover, the first director of the FBI. Hoover’s story in itself is enthralling, yet there’s something that feels incomplete about the film as a biography of his life.

“J. Edgar” chooses to take a double vantage point, with an elder Hoover narrating the events of his career to young agents, with frequent flashbacks and other details filled in along the way that he might not recall proudly. Time passes as Hoover continues his service to the FBI after many decades, and care is taken to find parallels between developments occurring in both periods of his life. It is quickly clear from both the beginning and end of his career that Hoover is a singular personality, making more waves than friends, and dead set in his ways, determined to serve his country and protect it from all enemies, foreign and domestic.

Technically, “J. Edgar” is extremely strong, highlighting extensive makeup to ensure that stars Leonardo DiCaprio, Armie Hammer, and Naomi Watts look the parts when their characters have aged many years from the current ages of the actors. Accents and dialects seem just as important, with special emphasis given to Hoover’s speech and a hearty attempt by “Burn Notice” star Jeffrey Donovan as Robert F. Kennedy. The characters feel authentic, and a host of talented actors inhabit brief supporting parts, including Judi Dench, Josh Lucas, Stephen Root, Geoff Pierson, and Christopher Shyer. This is the movie that could well win DiCaprio his first Oscar, as his performance involves a full immersion in Hoover’s mental and physical mannerisms.

The characters and their setting certainly feel real, but the story as it’s told and unfolded never quite proves gripping in the way that it should. There are standout moments in which Hoover reveals much of himself and offers a glimpse into his psyche, but overall, the film lacks such moments. Nonetheless, the cinematography helps greatly to establish the mood, and the film remains genuinely interesting from start to finish. Though it may not be Eastwood’s best work, it’s still an engaging and worthwhile biopic of an entirely fascinating American.


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Please make no mistake this film clearly stars Leonardo DiCaprio, Naomi Watts, Armie Hammer, Josh Lucas and Judi Dench as per official credits.