The Aviator (2004) Poster

(2004)

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10/10
Leo's Masterpiece
drplw19 January 2005
There is no doubt that THE AVIATOR is the masterpiece of both director Martin Scorsese and actor, Leonardo DiCaprio. DiCaprio becomes Howard Hughes. The actor is so profoundly absorbed in the role that the DiCaprio we know from other films cannot be found in this film. It is a bravura performance of great depth and magnitude. DiCaprio richly deserves his first Academy Award.

I have never know much about Howard Hughes. This film opened my eyes to him as a personality, a businessman, aviator and his lavish lifestyle. DiCaprio no longer is the "pretty boy" from other films. The expressions he takes on are not handsome, the deeply furrowed brow, one could actually watch him, as Hughes' character, think his way through challenging situations, the mark of a highly gifted actor. Watching DiCaprio evolve into the paranoid schizophrenic Hughes in the latter part of the film is a stunning example of pure acting. Leo deserves recognition for recreating a most difficult personality.

Though the film is long, it never slows down nor gets boring and it commanded my attention from start to finish. It is masterpiece cinema for these two men and for other actors too. Cate Blanchette must be commended for her role as Katherine Hepburn. Every role was played by first rate actors.

If you want to understand a piece of American history from the 30s through the 1940s, this film will illumine you. It may not be the greatest film ever made but it sure is cinema to the max and worth seeing, without a second thought.
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8/10
Open the Door...
jon.h.ochiai13 February 2005
Martin Scorsese's "The Aviator" is grand spectacle with a reverence for the nostalgic, set in simpler times. As a snapshot of Howard Hughes's life from 1927 to 1947, "The Aviator" is a portrait of a man of genius and unmatched innovation, and also a man debilitated by severe obsessive compulsive disorder and extreme depression. "The Aviator" has an amazing performance by Leonardo DiCaprio as Howard Hughes, and a mesmerizing performance by Cate Blanchett, who seems to inhabit the role of Katherine Hepburn-- the love of Hughes's life. However, the one indelible image I have of the film is the scene in which Hughes is frozen in the men's restroom, because he can't make himself touch the door knob for fear of germs and contamination. Granted this was a time before obsessive compulsive disorder existed as a diagnosis. The scene is intended as a dramatic arc, distinguishing a tragic flaw in Hughes. However, for me it seemed overly indulgent, and was curious regarding the scene length. Much like most of the nearly 3 hour movie, this is an exercise in indulgence, and attention to detail that is only that. Scorsese's balance between Hughes's genius and his great suffering is good melodrama, but not very inspiring. I have a particular affinity for Howard Hughes the man. Had John Lone's (and Michael Mann's) story followed Hughes through the 1950's and beyond, the story would be even sadder. "The Aviator" illustrates the highs of genius, and the abyss of near insanity. This is an accurate depiction of an amazing man's life, but it is skewed toward the broken aspect. So just personally for me, it was frustrating to watch. To Scorsese's credit, one gets that he has immense compassion for Howard Hughes.

Hughes' life sentence is established in the opening scene. Hughes's mother while bathing the young Hughes, tells him something that perhaps leads to his obsessive compulsive nature. Apparently he is incomplete in his relationship with his mother, and the story surrounding what she said.

Fast forward to 1927, when Hughes left his father's wealthy drill bit tool company in Texas, to be a maverick film maker in California. Hughes is an ambitious and novice film director, but he is smart and has unmatched drive. However, his real genius is as a pilot and an innovative designer of airplanes. His gifts for fame and fortune are established. Hughes (DiCaprio) then pursues a touching romance with Katherine Hepburn (Blanchett). This is the highlight of "The Aviator", even amidst the spectacular aerial cinematography, because it is just about relationships that move people. There is a wonderful moment when Hughes lets Hepburn take control of his plane as they fly above Los Angeles at night. As great as the chemistry is between Dicaprio and Blanchett, this romance part of the story goes on a little too long in the context of the movie.

From this point on, the movie becomes increasingly darker. Sure, Hughes has his share of triumphs, but everything is tempered by his spiraling decline into depression and his debilitating obsessive compulsive disorder. The acting is outstanding throughout the picture. This is Leonardo DiCaprio's most mature performance. He truly captures Hughes's intensity, genius, and charm. His suffering also elicits great compassion. Cate Blanchett is outstanding as Kate Hepburn. At first one wonders whether she is doing a caricature of Hepburn. She is not. She is being Hepburn. Blanchett's performance is simply stunning. An unrecognizable Kate Beckinsale is awesome as Ava Gardner. Beckinsale gives surprising layers to Gardner, who is really not all that she appears to be on the surface. John C. Reilly is fabulous as Hughes's CFO. In an understated fashion Reilly's performance anchors the movie. Alec Baldwin as Pan Am CEO, Juan Trippe, and Matt Ross as Hughes's engineer Glenn Odekirk give strong performances.

Scorsese's "The Aviator" is spectacular to view, and has a sense of history and tragedy. He offers an interesting portrait of the dichotomy between genius and madness, with an emphasis on the dark. This choice really lost me. "The Aviator" is amazing work, that is not very inspiring, though it was probably not intended to do so. That is a bit of a disappointment.
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10/10
A GREAT American TRAGEDY
Mister104517 December 2004
This is an astonishingly beautiful and moving film. Martin Scorcese has created a seminal work -- one that brings the harrowing, big-studio, adult movie making of the 1970's and totally reinvents and reinvigorates it for today's audience.

The story traces the rise and demise of billionaire Howard Hughes as he struggles to find meaning and purpose in a life unfettered by concerns of money, talent or opportunity. Whether trying to get a plane off the ground or a young starlet into bed, Hughes attacks life with a fierce gusto -- plagued and prodded by obsessive compulsive germphobia that constantly threatens to consume and defeat him.

DiCaprio is amazing! It's the performance no one thought he was capable of. It is a dynamic, smart, funny, articulate, intense, mature and ultimately harrowing performance that relaunches his career as one of American's finest actors. At the end of the film, you just want to take him in your arms and sob. It's really that good.

Cate Blanchett is incredible as Katherine Hepburn. At first, I was a little thrown by how bravely she attacked the Hepburn trademark voice, but I was completely won over by the second line. It is a tender, funny, incredibly convincing star turn that supplies the heart for the first half of the film. The scene where she takes Howard home "for dinner" with the family is a classic! Kate Beckinsale does a surprisingly fine job with Eva Gardner -- conveying the slow burning passion of this Hollywood icon without ever lapsing into mere mimicry.

But, in the end, this isn't a love story -- it's a war story -- a war between Howard's unstoppable will and his fierce inner demons battling for Howard's soul. It is the major relationship in the movie and the true heart of the film -- one that fuels his eccentric genius and yet constantly threatens to rip his life apart. He tries to ignore it by sleeping with every beauty in town. He tries to outrun it, building faster and faster airplanes. Yet, it is his one constant companion from early childhood to his ultimate, inescapable end. And it is this relationship that leaves you devastated at the end of the film.

Brilliant!
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8/10
Falling Short of Greatness...Again
Rathko21 December 2004
Scorsese has such an encyclopedic knowledge and understanding of cinema that every shot, however inventive and daring, is effortlessly composed. The direction, editing and cinematography are all the first-rate work by individuals who are clearly masters of their profession and the production design, costumes and makeup are the best you'll see all year. Their efforts combine to create a world of rich and lavish color, of excitement and glamour. Who wouldn't want to visit THIS Cotton Club in 1935? It's hard to imagine who could trump the technical team for Oscars this year.

With such a perfectly realized world in which to perform, the actors universally do an outstanding job. Despite the criticism of the hardcore DiCaprio-haters, the unprejudiced will observe an excellent performance that takes genuine risks and convincingly conveys the passing of more than twenty years. Importantly, DiCaprio more than holds his own when paired with Cate Blanchett and especially Alan Alda, who both give equally note worthy performances. Blanchett's interpretation of Katherine Hepburn seems spot on, and anyone familiar with the late actresses mannerisms will appreciate the hard work that clearly went into the recreation. Alda, one of the most consistently underrated actors around, delivers another masterclass in restrained character building as he oozes ambition and political dishonesty from every pore.

And yet, despite the obvious talent of all those involved and Scorsese's ability to effortlessly fill three hours, something about The Aviator fails to completely satisfy. Without wanting to sound like a film student, movies should, ultimately, be ABOUT something; love, honor, courage, redemption, the BIG ideas and themes that are the fuel of the plot. What was the drive of The Aviator? A rich guy recklessly spends lots of money to indulge his personal obsessions and gets away with it. We're never told how his experiences change him, and without change there's no journey. Considering the screenplay was written by John Logan, who usually displays a keen interest in showing the emotional evolution of his characters, the oversight is inexplicable. Ultimately then, much like Gangs of New York, The Aviator is simply the sum of it's parts, and however brilliantly those parts are realized, there doesn't seem to be a bigger theme to underpin and drive them.

The Aviator is a perfectly realized recreation of the era and one well worth experiencing. But the lack of a real emotional journey suggests 'all gloss and no substance', and ultimately prevents the movie from being truly great.
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10/10
For once the hype is accurate! A must see!
jen083022 January 2005
Leonardo Dicaprio, once again, shows his depth as an artist and his ability to carry a film. He deserves the Golden Globe, and his due as an outstanding actor. Howard Hughes, the man, remains a mystery and the portrayal of his obsessive compulsive disorder was a powerful view into his inner hell. The beginning scene set the pace for a journey into his privileged and dark world. The Aviator showed the torments and gifts of genius. Amazing job by all involved! Wardrobe, music, special effects, direction, acting...all award winning contributions. I left the film moved and disturbed, which shows the power of this film. Wonderful performances by all the cast and the time"flew" by...
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9/10
Obsessively Watchable.
nycritic14 December 2005
Warning: Spoilers
Not many directors can say that their film-making careers haven't become as predictable as the next day, and for all its ups and downs and questionable choices, Martin Scorcese, with or without an Academy Award for Best Director, can stand proud and say that he is one of those few who have made at least one stellar film per decade since he began making films in the 1970s and continues making high-quality films for the serious moviegoer. Or, as it could be said, he makes the films he wants to make whether they become critical successes or failures.

Coming out of GANGS OF NEW YORK he decides to film this biopic about media dinosaur Howard Hughes at a time when the average moviegoer is more interested in the likes of Paris Hilton and her increasingly cretinous presence which has nothing to bring to society except smutty videotapes. In a year filled with biopics, THE AVIATOR is an important one, if trivially flawed, because in taking such a character and without sentiment analyzing his truly remarkable but ultimately tragic life he achieves a sharper view. Leonardo diCaprio as Howard Hughes does not have even a remote physical resemblance to the actual man, but there was no doubt in my mind that he was Hughes from head to toe. It's as if he studied Hughes through film reels because he gets him right and that makes his performance multi-dimensional. Watch a short, apparently unimportant scene with a bar-waitress early in the film and see how this establishes who he is in relation to women, what he thinks of them. Watch how diCaprio brings Hughes obsession with perfection and cleanliness to life: in film-making, in building the perfect plane. And watch those testosterone-fuled sequences in which Hughes breaks aviation records (almost killing himself at one point).

It can be said that THE AVIATOR is divided into two parts: The first half, which focuses on Hughes relationship with screen icon Katharine Hepburn (Cate Blanchett), and the second half which takes off from where she leaves and his obsessive-compulsive disorder, previously kept under control (suggesting she gave him some stability), comes flooding through unmonitored. During the first half of the movie DiCaprio and Blanchett create a perfect pair of social outcasts, and had the film ended there, this would have been a powerfully tragic love story. I got the sense, without reading Kate's autobiography, that these two really loved each other and were each other's complement. Hepburn's mercurial approach to Hughes must have obviously intoxicated him, and I could perceive (through Blanchett's flawless conveyance of Hepburn) that she was intrigued by this odd man, and of course, being so cerebral, she felt compelled to getting to know him. However, their differences could not have been better reflected in the disastrous scene when Hughes meets Hepburns family and though they remained together a bit longer, his womanizing was the cause for her abandonment of him and the gut-wrenching sequence in which be burns his clothes and orders work associate Noah Dietrich (John C. Reilly) to buy him more.

The second half doesn't lag. It does feel a little episodic, but Scorcese manages to make transitions smooth, while introducing players in the latter part of his life, such as Ava Gardner, Juan Trippe, and Senator Ralph Owen Brewster. As the case with many of Scorcese films, length and editing is an issue, and reducing the inclusion of starlet Faith Domergue would have been preferable, but again, Scorcese is making the film he chooses to make and this is really a quibble in my behalf, because soon later Hughes is back in action defending his usage of his own money during the war against accusations from Senator Brewster (Alan Alda, playing him like a snake). No punches are also thrown when the aforementioned OCD kicks in and Hughes starts to see things and becomes a virtual recluse, urinating into glass jars and watching the same movie over and over again (the movie in question was not THE OUTLAW as seen here, but the usage of this archive footage seems appropriate since it sums up his attitude toward women and a lost love in Kate Hepburn). Here is when DiCaprio really sinks his teeth into his role in making Hughes a broken man unable to cope with his madness and needing to defend himself against Brewster and Trippe.

Regardless to minor character inconsistencies and half-told story lines and that many of the actors look nothing like their real-life counterparts (i.e. Gwen Stefani as Jean Harlow, Jude Law as Errol Flynn, and a glaringly miscast Kate Beckinsale as Ava Gardner), THE AVIATOR is solid entertainment and highly recommended to anyone who loves old movies and old Hollywood.
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7/10
A Striking and Ambitious Saga
RobertF8714 January 2005
Warning: Spoilers
This film is about the world famous multi-millionaire Howard Hughes. However, if the only thing you know about Hughes was that he was a recluse who secreted himself inside his hotel in Las Vegas and was obsessed with cleanliness, you may be in for a surprise. The film deals with Hughes' life before all that.

After a brief prologue showing Hughes as a child with his mother advising him on cleanliness, we move forward to 1927 with an adult Hughes (played by Leonardo DiCaprio) directing his hugely risky film "Hell's Angels". "The Aviator" takes in Hughes' film-making achievements, his romances with some of the most beautiful women of the day (including Katherine Hepburn (a superb Cate Blanchett) and Ava Gardner (Kate Beckinsale)) and his passion for aviation. The picture of Howard Hughes that emerges from the film is of a brilliant man who was a ruthless perfectionist, constantly risking ruin and even death for his goals. This all makes his eventual fate all the more sad.

The film is brilliantly made, the cast are all very good in their roles (especially, as mentioned earlier, Blanchett as Katherine Hepburn) and despite lasting almost three hours, it is never dull. The main flaw, however, is that you never learn much about Hughes. Some more on his background would certainly have been welcome.

Any film by Scorsese, however, is worth seeing and this is no exception.
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10/10
Leo's best
sowowme20526 October 2006
Leonardo D. was absolutely amazing. He was so accurate in the actions of someone with OCD. I have that disorder and he is so relatable. I know that the movie is about Howard Hughes (who was an absolute genius, even though he was a mad man), but Leo's performance was amazing. This is the movie that made people forget his role in Titanic and respect him as the amazing actor he is. I also really liked the costumes and music. The lipstick, the hair... again, they were right on for the period. Cate Blanchett made a perfect Katherine Hepburn. She was able to become the loud, powerful, intelligent woman that was Katherine Hepburn.

If you haven't seen the movie yet you are truly missing out.
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8/10
An Interesting Muddle
DaveTheNovelist22 January 2005
"The Aviator"--a biopic of Howard Hughes-- is clearly one of Scorsese's lesser works. Still, a lesser work from Scorsese is far superior to the greatest work of your average director. Here's the rundown:

The first quarter of the film is a total triumph, showing the young Hughes' bold endeavors in film when he produced what was at the time the most expensive and lavish film ever made. Scorsese tipping his hat to old Hollywood is the most fun he has had since "Goodfellas." The costumes, set designs, and pacing of this portion of the film are stunning and suck the viewer in.

The rest of the film, despite Scorsese's amazing and vivid attention to detail, is a muddled mess, giving us glimpses into Hughes' obsessive (and compulsive) ways, his womanizing, his ambitious foray into aviation and the early days of commercial flight, his fight against Congress at the end of WWII, and the notorious plight and ultimately single flight of his infamous "Spruce Goose." It's all semi-educational and semi-entertaining, but in the end I think the complicated life of Hughes remains a mystery.

As for the performances, they are amazing (thanks in most part to Scorsese, the ultimate actor's director). Leonardo Dicaprio in the title role gives yet another performance that goes against my natural loathing of him, and although he seems a bit too boyish playing Hughes in the latter years (and the film really suffers for it), he's impeccable for the better part of the film. Cate Blanchett as Katherine Hepburn is simply stunning and steals every moment she is on screen. Her look, her mannerisms, and her speech perfectly match the screen legend to a haunting degree. Alan Alda and Alec Baldwin in supporting quasi-villain roles are methodically perfect. And the nicest surprise was Kate Beckinsale, a normally flaccid actress, playing Ava Gardner. She came across as gorgeous, intelligent, and maximized her minimal screen time without ever overtly stealing her scenes. Like Sharon Stone in "Casino" and Cameron Diaz in "Gangs of New York" Scorsese once again coaxes a great performance out of an otherwise unremarkable pretty face.

In the end, "The Aviator" flies high thanks to Scorsese and the acting, even if the real person it depicts remains lost in a muddle of half truths and speculation.
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10/10
Insightful and well done
mike b18 January 2005
Scorsese does it again with this period piece detailing the life of the eccentric millionaire Howard Hughes (Leonardo DiCaprio). The film opens with Howard directing his 1930 war epic, "Hell's Angels." Which took 3 years and 4 million dollars to make (not a small chunk of change back then, not even that small now). The movie moves to his meeting and subsequent courting of Katharine Hepburn, played exceptionally well by Cate Blanchett. It also depicts him moving on to the likes of Ava Gardner and Faith Domergue. "The Aviator" shows us the many aspects of Hughes' being, both good and bad. He is a dreamer, sparing no expense to make his movies or build his aviation empire, despite the financial trouble it causes the company which he inherited from his family that is based in Houston (the name of the company escapes me. We also see his obsessive compulsive nature, afraid of contracting germs and constantly trying to stay as clean as possible. When Errol Flynn grabs a pea off of Hughes' plat with a nice cut of meat on it, Hughes pushes it aside with only one bite gone. Also, Hughes is contracted by the government to make fighter planes and an "air-boat," a giant airplane that can transport the troops, their equipment, and transportation across the Atlantic so that German u-boats will stop taking down U.S. submarines and ships. He call's it "The Hercules." The project takes too long, and it isn't completed in time to help in the war. Well, Hughes' new airline TWA doesn't amuse the big wigs at Pan Am Airlines, so their owner uses his personnel senator (Leon Brewster of Maine) to get a bill before Congress to put a monopoly on international aviation travel. Hughes takes on Brewster and his hearing and wins, then he takes the maiden voyage of his "Spruce Goose," as Brewster called it, and retires the vessel forever. If you didn't know who Hughes was before this movie, then it will give you a great foundation on which to build knowledge of this quite intelligent, quite intriguing man. DeCaprio turns in a superb performance, further distancing himself from his teeny-bopper early years. He has definitely changed my opinion of him with his last three movies (Gangs of New York, Catch Me If You Can, and The Aviator). I realize he might have been good in earlier movies (though don't you dare say "Basketball Diaries," which sucked), but I haven't seen them all.
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