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Overall Rating

Awesome: 34.91%
Worth A Look35.5%
Average: 15.38%
Pretty Bad: 6.51%
Total Crap: 7.69%

12 reviews, 97 user ratings

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Aviator, The (2004)
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by Laura Kyle

"Worth every second of its three hours."
5 stars

If the film set of The Aviator was a high school classroom, its roll call would include all of the popular and brightest kids -- Gladiator's screenwriter John Logan, director Martin Scorsese, and a recognizable cast list as long as your arm. Just the crew to take on complicated visionary Howard Hughes (portrayed outstandingly by Leonardo Dicaprio), director of the most expensive film at the time, the World War 1 epic Hell's Angels, and aerodynamic genius and inventor, who single-handedly changed the face of aviation. And did I mention, he was a bit loony?

There's a nice, deliberate, and luckily far from schmaltzy story here of the American Dreamer v. the Corporation (bending over backwards for the shareholder)... but The Aviator is essentially a biopic and it really follows in the same tradition of A Beautiful Mind, and is in fact better in my opinion.

Scorsese's study of Howard Hughes' flirtation with madness is utterly engulfing. Sanity casually taps him on the shoulder every so often, reminding him of reality and giving him the focus to build another airplane, but it gradually gives up on Hughes, who walks a fine line between ambition and paralytic phobia throughout the picture. He eventually loses his balance; you already know which side he ends up on.

In one key scene, Hughes agonizes over opening a "germ-ridden" bathroom doorknob, and Dicaprio and Scorsese succeed in getting the audience to side with Hughes' fears! I didn't want to touch that doorknob either! In other scenes, Hughes gets hooked on certain words and phrases, unable to stop repeating them, as though he is vomiting the English language. I found myself wanting to cover my mouth. And as Hughes felt sick to his stomach when photographers flashed light bulbs at him, so did I. In fact, all of Hughes' compulsively obsessive moments of weakness and insane attention to detail make sense to the viewer, because of Dicaprio's haunting performance and Scorcese's mammoth direction.

Much like Hughes himself, Scorcese achieves amazing exactness, not neglecting a single element. Yet he never comes off as obvious as a juggler showing off. Some of the most incredibly sustained and realistic flight sequences are found in The Aviator. Plus, the film really digs its heels into the time period, doing more than just peeking into Hollywood or merely commenting on the state of aviation of those few decades.

And... the cast. The Aviator is so jam-packed with stars, it runs the risk of blinding an audience. But I'm here to tell you, Gwen Stefani pulls off a mean Jean Harlow, and Jude Law's thirty seconds as Errol Flynn can hardly be dubbed as a "cameo" (because I tend to define a "cameo" as a little joke that everyone gets, ultimately pulling the moviegoer out of the movie). No, no. Scorsese's not trying to fuel his picture with big names, he's just got a lot of friends in Hollywood who are superb actors.

Familiar actors doing impressions of other familiar actors is tricky, but Cate Blanchett might as well spell her first name with the letter "K," because she truly transformed herself into Kate, or Katharine, Hepburn, although her interpretation of the famous actress can indeed be called, an "interpretation". And another Kate... Kate Beckinsale, as Ava Gardner, is on her way to redemption for... oh, well, Van Helsing, Serendipity, and Pearl Harbor just to name a few. She needs to keep whatever new hound dog she's got sniffing out scripts and directors, because boy has she waded through a good deal of shit until now! Alec Baldwin does his usual shtick, and quite well, playing Juan Trippe, executive of Pan Am and one of the first monopolists really. He swats at Howard Hughes like he would a fly, just waiting for the mad risk taker to lose his final million, so he can ultimately call dibs on the sky and the pockets of Americans.

Alan Alda is Trippe's convenient buddy, congressman Brewster, essentially a legislature for Pan Am interests and the man who ultimately charges Howard with fraud and war profiteering, which Scorsese depicts powerfully. Alda is one of those actors who continues to show up in surprising places, and always makes a viewer internally yelp "Alan Alda! Yay!" Even as the so-called villain. And perhaps the most understated performance of all is given by the ever reliable John C. Reily, as Howard's loyal right-hand man, who must quietly restrain himself from a potentially contagious doubt, informing Howard of his light piggy bank, but never quite panicking.

The Aviator really comes together in one shot of Hughes naked and crying on the floor, his own film projected onto his skin. Hughes was a man who spent every cent he owned, and more, for perfection. A man who halted film production, flushing thousands down the toilet each day, on the account of a cloudless sky. A man who didn't have to think for 15 minutes about dishing out 15 million for something he wanted.

And of course, the dark irony sets in as one realizes his meticulous passion and relentless distraction from reality, while charming to outsiders and invaluable to his dream, would eventually cause him to finish out his life as an eccentric recluse. There's already a complexity to Hughes though, without the tragedy of his mental illness and ultimately tortured existence. He was: A. An Engineer, B. A Hollywood Director, and C. A Playboy. Scorsese depicts Hepburn as Hughes' true love, but his primary roles didn't leave much room for that, thus his romancing of various starlets.

One can't help but wonder if Scorsese's reason for doing Howard Hughes' biopic is because he related to his subject's struggle for precision and flawlessness on (and off) screen. But unlike Hughes' faulty planes, The Aviator reminds us once again that Martin Scorsese is indeed a master filmmaker. I'm crossing my fingers that he snatches up an Oscar.

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originally posted: 01/04/05 07:21:32
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User Comments

9/14/17 morris campbell long but really good 4 stars
1/11/10 Eric Leo did a good job, great movie if you bother to watch 4 stars
12/24/08 Brap YES 5 stars
3/31/07 David Pollastrini All the women in this film are hot! 3 stars
3/07/07 Frank Rountree Good movie, good history lesson! I liked it. 4 stars
2/19/07 Nick Maday I was drawn in and spellbound from the very beginning. 4 stars
1/04/07 Alice I do not understand the ratings.Nothing special, boring by times. 3 stars
11/25/06 Gwen Stefani? Not a bad film, but I watched it in fast-forward so not too long... 3 stars
10/01/06 Charles Tatum Excellent film, DiCaprio finally wins my grudging respect 5 stars
8/05/06 Agent Sands Another riveting Scorsese biopic. Fantastic in all departments. 5 stars
5/27/06 Steve Newman Great film - 30 mins to long - now going to read how true it all was!! 4 stars
3/18/06 MP Bartley Great acting throughout, brilliantly rendered period detail - a fine departure for Scorsese 4 stars
3/12/06 daveyt enjoyable... 4 stars
3/03/06 Tanya Very good 5 stars
1/08/06 Gerry Dunne good story let down by appalling flying scenes 3 stars
12/28/05 John Dog Superb! 5 stars
11/16/05 Quigley Dicaprio's acting is suberb, but it was too long, and I didn't want to see leo naked. ever. 4 stars
11/05/05 mike winger i was exspecting too see kate beckinsale tits 1 stars
10/12/05 Jennifer Free The movie drags on and on. I actually got bored and didn't finish after an hour and a half 2 stars
9/01/05 herkos akhaion Pointless, looks good, but story is poorly told 2 stars
8/30/05 LS Galvin Amazingly acted, beautifully directed, satisfying biopic! 5 stars
8/28/05 D Buckley Leo should have won best actor 4 stars
8/22/05 ES Cate's roll is wasted here, she should have saved it for a hepburn bio-movie, film stinks 2 stars
8/17/05 shadi The Aviator is a great movie! it`s greater than life & DiCaprio is amazing in it! 5 stars
8/13/05 lozita it rocks! 5 stars
8/13/05 Snicklets Outstanding! Held me captive from beginning to end. Leo DiCaprio shines; Cate wonderful. 5 stars
8/13/05 Dr. Video Excellent acting esp by DiCaprio. 5 stars
7/31/05 RK DiCaprio and Blanchett are excellent 4 stars
7/30/05 Dr. Zoidberg Sugarcoated bullshit; watch Marty sell his balls to the PG-13 crowd! 1 stars
7/27/05 Malaka The film was awesome, it's got everything a movie should be, Great 5 stars
7/26/05 Kankasaur Couldn't ask for more excitement and obsession with detail from Hughes himself 5 stars
7/05/05 Ry Great Movie of great man. It's based on a true story, not a made up script you morons. 5 stars
7/04/05 mariann Dull and boring....We turned it off after 30 minutes. 1 stars
6/23/05 Naka Stunning, intelligent, surprisingly good preformance by DiCaprio. I was enthralled. 5 stars
6/15/05 JFK bad music, boring script, average actings, long movie. Not a best film 3 stars
6/13/05 Agent Sands Long live Scorsese. 5 stars
6/07/05 Anthony G Good 4 stars
6/06/05 R.W. Welch Mostly successful, tho the main characters in this opus are impossible to re-create. 4 stars
6/04/05 Denise Gannon i'm sorry but Leo can't act! he's a FACE. very unbelievable acting by most of cast, too. 1 stars
6/04/05 rohit adhikari it is one of the most beautiful movies i have ever seen . it is a must watch 5 stars
6/01/05 Monday Morning Couldn't decide what kind of film it wanted to be, except "long". VERY disappointing. 3 stars
5/28/05 Saab Rocks Borring and long. There's only three minutes of action, and the movie is three hours long! 2 stars
5/26/05 Jake Fasinating and Entertaining 5 stars
5/02/05 dwarzel Academy awards for doing impressions? 4 stars
4/26/05 hp feel good film - got to watch for martin scorsese and leanardo 4 stars
4/16/05 malcolm pleasantly surprised by dicaprio's performance, otherwise, just not that interesting 3 stars
4/11/05 Bing good but too long 3 stars
4/08/05 Lina Correa Very intense film, great acting by DiCaprio 4 stars
3/31/05 Madeira Pure genius. It could kick Million Dollar Baby's ass any day. 5 stars
3/26/05 Denise great 4 stars
3/24/05 Michael Lloyd Scorsese's finest work since Goodfellas 5 stars
3/24/05 dana Gordon A must see on the big screen 4 stars
3/19/05 Green Grenlim has some exciting moments, but a little overlong 4 stars
3/06/05 Bueller A depressing visual feast. 4 stars
3/06/05 Josh Scorses indulges Leo's need for a "sympathetic" character. Overwrought. 3 stars
3/03/05 enid leo is boring, the film focuses exclusively on him, thus the film is boring. 1 stars
3/02/05 David Tsung pretty boring - not martin's best 3 stars
3/02/05 Pickles Leo is a crap actor, you're not watch hughes youre just watching Leo with an accent, boring 1 stars
2/25/05 Phyllis Kunz Fuckinubelieveable that Alec did not win the nomination for best supporting actor. Fuck! 5 stars
2/20/05 lj worth it for cate blanchett alone--she is marvelous as hepburn 4 stars
2/19/05 Captain Craig Terriffic from start to finish. Leaves one wanting more! 5 stars
2/18/05 susee scorsese, inthe way i never pickin 2 stars
2/18/05 Elza Hudson A heap of junk - very boring. 1 stars
2/17/05 Taylor Fladgate Full of depth and great acting. 4 stars
2/14/05 ELI gonna win best pic. 5 stars
2/14/05 Jeanine Price OK 4 stars
2/13/05 dbx Most boring movie I've ever seen. Leo: not an interesting actor, should have had JohnnyDepp 1 stars
2/12/05 Sylvia Belle interesting biography 5 stars
2/04/05 Mirella Rodriguez Fantastic! The acting is right on. 5 stars
2/04/05 Barbara Long A decent movie, Leo is cool. 4 stars
2/04/05 Agent Sands Scorsese's latest opus is impressive, though not up to par with "Bull," "Fellas," or "Dead. 5 stars
2/03/05 Steve Michaud I'll take "lesser" Scorsese over most of the directors out there any day 4 stars
2/01/05 Danita Berg Leo's best. This movie is NOT Titanic. Thank God. 4 stars
2/01/05 Elena this was incredible. i am in awe. 5 stars
1/29/05 Richard Brandt One is impressed by all Hughes accomplished despite an absolutely debilitating disorder 4 stars
1/29/05 Red Sox Still Suck Leo, Marty & Blanchett deserve Oscars for this great movie 5 stars
1/25/05 bob this movie fucking sucked 1 stars
1/24/05 Janet Pokrinchak Screenplay lacks depth and focus. Just never quite gets there & drags in some places. 3 stars
1/23/05 fred flintstone not again its too painful! 1 stars
1/22/05 Rob McKeown I no longer think of him as de-crap-io, worth a look 4 stars
1/21/05 Uncle Phucker Scorsese's hardcoreness is gone but his brilliant filmmaking is not. Acting was well done. 4 stars
1/15/05 Devin Knox worst movie of the year by far 1 stars
1/11/05 Stacey Peachfuzz Some awesome sequences but rather forgettable as a whole. 3 stars
1/11/05 Obi Wan Leo's best Movie!! Great Movie....didn't seem as long 5 stars
1/10/05 Mel Stark Fantastic. A film truely not to be missed 5 stars
1/09/05 Patti m usually prefer art house films but this movie is exceptional! 5 stars
1/08/05 Gizmo It was enjoyable but I honestly expected more. Blanchett was pretty great, though. 3 stars
1/03/05 Movie Lover so long! 3 stars
1/02/05 Nisha the best performance by Mr. Leo Dicaprio 5 stars
12/31/04 ajay it was pleasent... 4 stars
12/31/04 bobbi good, but only covered a few of his accomplishments 4 stars
12/28/04 Obi Wan WOW, WOW,WOW!! I was truly amazed...I'm at a lost for words how great this movie was! 5 stars
12/24/04 Hugh Janus Leo, Marty & Blanchett deserve Oscars for this great movie 5 stars
12/24/04 Raymond Shaw highly enjoyable cinema. DiCaprio is tremendous! Miss Blanchett runs the gamut of emotions! 5 stars
12/17/04 Ray Pretty good 5 stars
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  14-Dec-2004 (PG-13)
  DVD: 24-May-2005

  19-Dec-2004 (12)

  10-Feb-2005 (M)

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