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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: Much like I observed in my recent piece on Steven Spielberg’s approach to LincolnI detect real relish from a veteran filmmaker – in this instance, Clint Eastwood – in fleshing out the interior, austere, almost drab trajectory of his biopic, in this case J. Edgar Hoover’s ‘story’ in building up the Federal Bureau of Investigation through the middle decades of the 20th Century. Although the film ends up being a touch dull, and in a sense, one never fully gains the sense of what Eastwood is trying to say about his subject, there’s no doubting his directorial craft. It really is a very well filmed story, from the impeccable period design, to some excellently composed set-pieces, to the atmospheric colour scheme (the film’s whole palette is reduced to a murky black/grey/green to reflect on Hoover’s inward, obsessive/repressive personality).

To me ultimately, the film is really all about the tour de force performance of Leonard DiCaprio in the title role. Over the last decade, DiCaprio has been building an impressive body of work in collaborations with some of the most important Hollywood filmmakers going – Martin Scorsese, Christopher Nolan, Steven Spielberg and Ridley Scott to name but a few – and though I think he’s 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 fifty years in the story, subtly suggest an enigmatic sexuality (was J. Edgar homosexual or simply assexual?), 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 fifty year period. I couldn’t think of a contemporary actor that could take us on this journey more convincingly, and I think it’s a shame DiCaprio hasn’t received more recognition for this performance. (March 2013)

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