The Aviator


Directed by: Martin Scorsese
Written by:John Logan
Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Cate Blanchett, John C. Reilly, Kate Beckinsale, Alec Baldwin, Alan Alda, Ian Holm, Matt Ross
Released: February 10, 2005
Grade: A-

My first part-time job was working in a video store.  With an exciting world opening up before me, I told my boss that there were two actors who would define the younger generation – Natalie Portman (after seeing her performance in The Professional) and Leonardo DiCaprio (after seeing What’s Eating Gilbert Grape).  I declared that each would win at least one Academy Award over the course of their career.  Ten years after my bold prediction, both Portman (for Closer) and DiCaprio have deservedly earned themselves Oscar nominations.

At the age of just 17, Howard Hughes inherited his father’s wealthy machine tool company.  It was business he cared little about.  His true love was aviation and Hughes became a pioneer in the industry.  His vast fortune wasn’t all spent on crazy flying contraptions.  In 1927, Hughes spent a whopping $4m in directing a motion picture, Hell’s Angels.  His rise to stardom in Hollywood saw him sleeping with many cinema starlets including the biggest star of all, Katharine Hepburn.

As successful as he was, he’d become more famous for his eccentricities.  Hughes was paranoid about germs and diseases.  During his worst moments, Hughes wouldn’t touch anyone or anything.  He’d lock himself in hotel suites and wouldn’t be seen for months on end.  He may have been a multi-millionaire but you wouldn’t know it when you see the way his life finally panned out…

Martin Scorsese’s film is beautifully shot but it can’t sustain the pace for 170 minutes.  There are so many brilliant scenes I’d like to recount, such as when Katharine Hepburn is first introduced and when Hughes goes head-to-head with Senator Ralph Brewster (played by Alan Alda).  Sadly though, there are moments of boredom mixed within the brilliance.  Too much time is wasted developing Hughes’ condition – I got the point very early on.  You also get the feeling the film’s been heavily edited.  You can’t seriously tell me that Jude Law and Gwen Stefani were supposed to be in the film for such a short time?  Their performances barely meet the definition of a cameo.

Qualms aside, the overall package is still very entertaining.  From the very first scene, you’ll be dazzled by Leonardo DiCaprio.  You’ll be equally impressed by our own Cate Blanchett in her Oscar nominated role.  No expense has been spared either by director Martin Scorsese (who worked with DiCaprio on Gangs Of New York).  I’d hate to think how much was spent on extras and sets in creating the 30s and 40s. 

Howard Hughes didn’t always enjoy the limelight but I think he’d get a kick of seeing his life on the big screen.  An inspiring individual.