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J. Edgar

March 13, 2013

J. Edgar (2012)
Director: Clint Eastwood
Actors: Leonardo DiCaprio, Armie Hammer, Naomi Watts

J. Edgar

Synopsis: The professional and personal life of J. Edgar Hoover (Leonardo DiCaprio) from his ascension to the role of Director of the FBI in the 1920s through to his death in 1972.

Review: Similar to Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln, this is another interior, austere, almost slow-burn, biopic, sagely brought to life by a veteran filmmaker (in this case, Clint Eastwood). Although the film is suffocated somewhat by its solemnity, and it’s hard to ascertain Eastwood’s take on his subject (it feels quite a neutered dramatisation), you can’t really quibble with its realisation. It is a consummately told story, from the impeccable period design, the excellently composed set-pieces, to the atmospheric colour scheme – the film’s whole palette is reduced to a murky smudges to reflect on Hoover’s inward and repressive personality.

Ultimately though, the film’s main calling card is its tour de force of a central performance by Leonard DiCaprio. Over the last decade, DiCaprio has been building an impressive body of work in collaborations with some of the most celebrated Hollywood filmmakers: think Martin Scorsese, Christopher Nolan, Steven Spielberg and Ridley Scott to name but a few. And though he has been in better films than this, his portrayal of J. Edgar is perhaps his best performance to date. He simply lives the part, and revels in the complexity of having to age 50 years in the story, as well as subtly suggest his character’s sexuality, and, most importantly, showcase the iron will and conviction of a man who was able to completely shape and dominate the institution of the FBI over a 50-year period. It is hard to think of a contemporary, starry actor that could take us on this journey more convincingly, and it is a surprise DiCaprio didn’t received more awards recognition for this performance. (March 2013)

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