(Clint Eastwood, 2011)
Reviewed by Dave Lancaster
Summary: DiCaprio is extraordinary as American politics' most powerful man in Clint Eastwood's slow-burning, muddled but compelling 'J. Edgar' bio.
In one of many well written scenes in Clint Eastwood's biopic, FBI head J. Edgar Hoover (Leonardo DiCaprio) is revealed to be the kind of man who takes a secretary out on a date with the intent of showing off his card filing system in Washington, forcing her to time his speed at locating a book on "indiscretion".
The scene is telling of a professional's drive bleeding into his personal life. J. Edgar Hoover is portrayed as rigid, assured and accurate as the narrative opens but Eastwood's slow burning fabric slowly strips away those traits as Hoover's political stranglehold is diminished by the very securities and institutions he pioneered.
'J. Edgar' is a lush period epic detailing an important American figure whose career was long-standing and revered. It's fitting that Clint Eastwood directs (as well as producing and adding another of his own trademark slow jazz piano scores), bringing his probing wisdom and attention to detail to a subject that deserves the hand of a master.
Complimenting Eastwood's treatment is the cinematography in 'J. Edgar' which is surprisingly dark with so many of the frames shrouded in almost complete darkness, allowing DiCaprio's simmering passion to slowly emerge from the shadows before retreating again. Faces are often lit from the side, sending one side into the shadow and the other to the light - two faced politicians and enforcers dominate a film that is forever striving to uncover the personalities of men seldom separated from their job titles.
Naturally, a lot of the attention falls on DiCaprio's performance and it's typically expert. The makeup for the latter-day scenes and Hoover's distinctive accent may distract, but they don't blunt DiCaprio's power at becoming the character. He played another conflicted historical figure with similar flourish in Scorsese's 'The Aviator', and he's just as good here projecting his character's insecurity with power and sexuality.
'J. Edgar' is a film of secrets and 'Milk' screenwriter Dustin Lance Black's script doesn't always lay all the cards on the table. Nor should he. It does, however, deserve your investigation.
Watch clips, view images and relive the original theatrical trailer from 'J. Edgar' right HERE at Cinemas Online.
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