The Aviator

*****

Reviewed by: Josh Morrall

The Aviator
"The Aviator is a beautiful picture with flawless performances, wonderful cinematography and extravagant mise-en-scene."

There is nothing, absolutely nothing, no matter how hard I scratch with my unkempt nails, about The Aviator that is not blissfully, wonderfully, beautifully perfect.

Martin Scorsese has helmed 40 projects and his lack of an Oscar has been the cause of much debate in the film world for some years now. It is a credit to him, the five-foot film school graduate, that he has remained fully focused on producing motion pictures that captivate the audience and offer a purity of cinematic excellence rarely seen on screens today.

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His most recent production is the life story of the legendary Howard Hughes, big budget movie director, playboy, pioneer and what many might call a psychopath. He broke boundaries when he directed the war epic Hell's Angels. His addiction to aviation was funded by a vast inheritance, which was almost wiped out as he became obsessed with producing the largest and most modern aeroplanes the world had ever seen.

In the role of Hughes is Leonardo DiCaprio. Those who consider him a talentless heart-throb should be ashamed of such pitiful ignorance and might benefit from a re-evaluation of his performances in What's Eating Gilbert Grape, Catch Me If You Can, The Basketball Diaries and This Boy's Life (to name but a few). Here, he takes his method to an entirely new level, believable and arresting as both the playboy and the manic. His nervous tics are a joy to behold, from his cautious cough at the sight of germs to his utter uncontrollable terror as a disabled man approaches him after using the bathroom. Best Actor? Very much deserved.

Cate Blanchett, apparently Scorsese's first choice for the role of Katherine Hepburn, is transformed completely into the reincarnation of the four times Oscar winner. The New England accent is faultless, as are the mannerisms and the classy Hepburn swagger. Truly a fantastic performance. Best Actress? Certainly.

Even the usually irritating, but constantly alluring, Kate Beckinsale turns in a great performance, as Ava Gardner, definitely worthy of Academy notification. She is alleged to have put on 20 pounds for the role and comes out looking fresh-faced and mouth watering. Her chemistry with DiCaprio is very playful, contrasting the mother/son undercurrent that pervades between DiCaprio and Blanchett.

Performances from John C. Reilly and the reborn Alec Baldwin are of a very high standard, also. It seems unfair to name just two actors, yet somehow, despite the quality of the supporting cast, the leads still manage to have an extra spark that makes the tense moments in the film even more exhilarating to watch.

Scorsese's direction is clearly painstaking. As the years pass, the quality of the film changes, the colour tones reflecting how films would have looked at the time. The beautifully painted shots are matched by the costumes, set design and even special effects, something quite rare for Scorsese. His old school approach to action is phenomenal. Hughes's crash into the houses in Beverly Hills is an incredible five minutes, the breathtaking pace of the machine-gun editing, which rips through the screen and tears you up inside, is bettered only by the vibrant sharpness of real flames, something rarely seen in movies anymore, since the dull, flat fires produced by CGI are preferred.

From beginning to end, with stunning sequences throughout - especially the Senate hearing - The Aviator is a beautiful picture with flawless performances, wonderful cinematography and extravagant mise-en-scene.

There is no doubt about it; this film soars high above all the competition.

Reviewed on: 16 Jan 2005
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The early years of movie mogul and planemaker, Howard Hughes.
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Angus Wolfe Murray ***1/2

Director: Martin Scorsese

Writer: John Logan

Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Cate Blanchett, Kate Beckinsale, John C Reilly, Alec Baldwin, Alan Alda, Danny Huston, Gwen Stefani

Year: 2004

Runtime: 169 minutes

BBFC: 12A - Adult Supervision

Country: US/Japan/Germany

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