The Aviator : [7/10] : USA 2004 : Martin SCORSESE : 169 mins
Finally an Oscar for Marty? While nobody's idea of a masterpiece, Howard Hughes biopic The Aviator is decisively Scorsese's best film since Casino a decade ago, and hangs together much better than Gangs of New York - for which he was narrowly pipped at the Oscar post by The Pianist's Roman Polanski. And with the notable exception of Peter Jackson for Return of the King, Scorsese's "achievement in direction" (to quote the official Academy rubric) easily matches or exceeds that of all that prize's recent winners.
Because, for all Howard Hughes' (Leonardo DiCaprio) glamorous achievements in the fields of movie-making, his Hollywood romances – and his visionary work as an aviation pioneer – Scorsese and scriptwriter John Logan admirable ensure that we're never far away from the 'dark side' of the Hughes story. Hughes fights a constant battle against his neuroses and psychoses, a battle which we know he ended up losing – and Hughes himself also seems aware of his grim fate: he has brief but genuinely disturbing flash-forwards which hint at the germ-phobic billionaire hermit he so notoriously became in the 1960s. Though not perhaps an ideal facial match for Hughes, DiCaprio strikes the right lankily insubstantial figure, and it's his tormented energy which keeps The Aviator airborne through even its rockiest stages.
26th December, 2004
[seen 21st December : Odeon Gate, Newcastle : press show]
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