Homefront movie
7.25 out of 10
The Hunger Games: Catching Fire movie
8.75 out of 10
Disney's Frozen movie
10.0 out of 10
Delivery Man movie
6.75 out of 10
8.25 out of 10

Monday, November 14, 2011

J. Edgar

A Man's Ambitions

Director: Clint Eastwood
Writers: Dustin Lance Black
Cast: Leonardo DiCaprio, Armie Hammer, Naomi Watts, Judi Dench, Jeffrey Donovan

SYNOPSIS: J. Edgar Hoover changed the face of law enforcement during his tenure as the director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. But behind every criminal collar and new law hid a man with secrets and shames that could destroy everything he had built.

REVIEW: With an acting career spanning 65 years and a directing career since 1971, Clint Eastwood has become a cinematic institution. Behind the camera again for his 35th directorial effort, Eastwood takes a story written by Milk scribe Dustin Lance Black to attempt to bring to life J. Edgar Hoover and his reign in the United States government, first as part of the Justice department, the Bureau of Investigation then as the first Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

John Edgar Hoover (Leonardo DiCaprio, Inception) was born January 1st, 1895, in Washington, D.C.. As soon as he left graduated college, Hoover was hired by the Justice Department. From there, J. Edgar became acting director of the Bureau of Investigation, and as the first and longest reigning Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Along the way, Hoover enlarged the FBI into an expansive efficient investigative branch of the government. He used the FBI to root out suspected subversives, Communist radicals, Great Depression gangsters like John Dillinger, and the kidnapper of the Charles Lindbergh baby.

Expanding the powers of his federal crime-fighting government branch throughout his career, J. Edgar Hoover utilized all the powers at his disposal as director. At the guidance and upbringing of his mother (Judi Dench), Edgar portrayed an outwards appearance of patriotic and personal ambition. But behind closed doors, Hoover hid repressed homosexual feelings, insecurities, and a stutter. Throughout his career, Edgar kept with him a close confidant and eventual Deputy Director Clyde Tolson (Armie Hammer, The Social Network). They ate lunch and dinner together, went to the clubs and vacationed together. All along, executive secretary Helen Gandy (Naomi Watts) provided support and confidence for Edgar and his personal and government secrets.

Eastwood tells the story from the perspective of J. Edgar as he retells of his youth and his career to various young special agents as they type up his professional memoirs. A little disjointed at first, we quickly fall into the rhythm of Hoover's eloquent monologue of self promotion. DiCaprio is stellar as Hoover, at all ages. Dench as Hoover's mother Annie speaks volumes of her controlling and demanding nature while uttering few words. Armie Hammer as long-time friend Clyde Tolson is both brother and possible lover, his eyes betraying his pain and longing. But while the aging make up for DiCaprio's Hoover and Watts' Gandy are exceptional, Hammer's older Tolson seems plastic and unreal.

Eastwood looks long and hard into the professional and personal life of J. Edgar Hoover. At 2 hours and 17 minutes, we catch glimpses of the defeat of domestic Communist radicalism, gangsters and corruption. All the while, the use of excessive force and the bending of the laws to keep our nation safe seems to come at a cost. Well acted by DiCaprio, Watts, Dench, and Hammer, the subject matter is at times exciting and intriguing, and at other times slow, drawn out and unnecessary. Eastwood is a master of acting and of putting acting to film. Every element is calculated, every scene is utterly detailed, the lines of fact and fiction blurred.

I am sure there will be award buzz for DiCaprio and Dench in the upcoming couple of months. With Eastwood at the helm and the high caliber of acting talent, J. Edgar is both brilliant to watch and arduous to sit through.

WORTH: Rental

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