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The Aviator Movie Poster

Year: 2004
Director: Martin Scorsese

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Cast:

Leonardo DiCaprio (Howard Hughes), Cate Blanchett (Katharine Hepburn), Kate Beckinsale (Ava Gardner), John C. Reilly (Noah Dietrich), Alec Baldwin (Juan Trippe), Alan Alda (Senator Ralph Owen Brewster), Ian Holm (Professor Fitz), Danny Huston (Jack Frye), Gwen Stefani (Jean Harlow), Jude Law (Errol Flynn), Adam Scott (Johnny Meyer), Matt Ross (Glenn Odekirk), Kelli Garner (Faith Domergue), Frances Conroy (Mrs. Hepburn), Brent Spiner (Robert Gross), Stanley DeSantis (Louis B. Mayer), Edward Herrmann (Joseph Breen), Willem Dafoe (Roland Sweet), Kenneth Welsh (Dr. Hepburn (as Kenneth Walsh)), J.C. MacKenzie (Ludlow)

Storyline:

The script begins as a young Hughes directs one of Scorsese's favorite films, Hell's Angels. Hughes was so obsessed with perfection in the aerial sequences that he waits forever for perfect conditions, right down to cloud formations. The Aviator ends in 1946, when Hughes was still a dashing young man and romancing actresses like Ava Gardner and Katharine Hepburn.

Reviews:

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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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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