THE AVIATOR (Martin Scorsese, 2004)
Leonardo DiCaprio stars as Howard Hughes in Martin Scorsese’s THE AVIATOR. Businessman, filmmaker, and eccentric figure, Hughes amassed a fortune, made a large impact in the airline industry, and eventually let his fear of germs overtake him. THE AVIATOR concentrates on Hughes’ early rise and rebound, from the making of HELL’S ANGELS to spurring innovations in aviation, including taking on Pan Am and the legislation it was trying to push through Congress.
Scorsese paints on THE AVIATOR’S epic canvas like only a master can. This is a thrilling picture that merges the director’s gritty style and his adoration of old-fashioned Hollywood. The production design alone makes the film a must-see. The gleaming planes and the astonishing period recreations, like the Coconut Grove and Pan Am president Juan Trippe’s office, look like every cent they must have cost. In simulating the film processing looks of yesteryear Scorsese and cinematographer Robert Richardson transform THE AVIATOR into a visual feast. Two spectacular plane crashes rank among the year’s best action sequences. DiCaprio delivers a dynamic performance full of charisma and complexity. He shows how the qualities that helped Hughes thrive in his work ultimately brought about his ruin. Cate Blanchett’s turn as Katharine Hepburn is terrific fun, and Alan Alda and Alec Baldwin, as a complicit United States senator and the Pan Am president, give THE AVIATOR two hiss-worthy villains. THE AVIATOR is one of the year’s best.
(Review first aired on the January 4, 2005 NOW PLAYING)