Review by: Jack Foley | Rating:
DVD SPECIAL FEATURES: Deleted Scenes: Howard Tells Ava
About His Car Accident. A Life Without Limits: The Making Of The
Aviator. The Role Of Howard Hughes. Modern Marvels: Howard Hughes,
A Documentary By The History Channel. The Afliction Of Howard
Hughes: Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. OCD Panel Discussion with
Leaonardo DiCaprio, Martin Scorsese, and Howard Hughes' widow
Terry Moore. The Visual Effects of The Aviator. Constructing The
Aviator: The work of Dante Ferretti. Costuming The Aviator: The
work of Sandy Powell. The Age Of Glamour: The hair and makup of
The Aviator. Scoring The Aviator: The work of Howard Shore. The
Wainright Fmail - Loudon, Rufus and Martha. Soundtrack spot. Still
Gallery. An Evening with Leonardo DiCaprio & Alan Alda.
HOWARD Hughes was a giant in every sense of the word. A tireless
perfectionist, the billionaire businessman owned, at various points
in his life, an international airline (TWA), two regional airlines,
an aircraft company, a major motion picture studio, gambling casinos
and hotels in Vegas and a vast amount of real estate.
His passion for aviation led him to break several speed records
and compelled him to build and pilot the world's largest airplane,
The Spruce Goose, while his love for movies saw him produce and
direct classics such as Hell's Angels, Scarface and The Front
Yet behind the brash surface of a man who also courted some of
the prettiest women of his generation (including Ava Gardner,
Katharine Hepburn and Ginger Rogers) lay a deeply troubled soul,
whose own anxieties and insecurities forced him to become a recluse.
By the time of his death, in 1976, he had not been seen publicly
or photographed for 20 years.
Needless to say, a film of such a life is, by its very nature,
an ambitious undertaking, and Martin Scorsese steps up to the
task with considerable aplomb to deliver a rousing, crowd-pleasing
and memorable depiction of one of the greatest minds of the 20th
His film may clock in at a little under three hours, but is frequently
as high-flying as Hughes himself thanks to some genuinely breath-taking
set pieces and a number of terrific performances.
First and foremost there is Leonardo
DiCaprio, as the man himself, who delivers a tour-de-force, effortlessly
casting aside any doubts about his capability to play such a prolific
Rather like Jamie Foxx in Ray, DiCaprio
lives and breathes Hughes, from his inspiring passion for whatever
captivates him, to his awkward phobias that threaten to handicap
He is both charismatic and egotistical, striking a near-perfect
balance between the various mental states that made Hughes such
And only rarely does his youthful appearance get in the way of
Yet he is not alone in the performance stakes, as this is a movie
as rich in star turns as it is in grandiose set-pieces.
Cate Blanchett perfectly captures the boldness and charm of Katharine
Hepburn, while Alec Baldwin provides an equally compelling nemesis
in the form of Pan Am boss, Juan Trippe.
Strong, too, is Alan Alda, as another of Hughes' adversaries,
Senator Owen Brewster, while John C Reilly is typically reliable
as Hughes' loyal, long-suffering right-hand man, Noah Dietrich.
Cameos from the likes of Jude Law (as Errol Flynn), Kate Beckinsale
(as Ava Gardner) and Ian Holm (as Professor Fitz), also add to
the overall richness of what's on show.
And yet the plaudits aren't merely reserved for the cast, given
the quality of Robert Richardson's superb cinematography, and
the brilliance of Scorsese's direction (who, ironically, suffers
from a fear of heights).
Casting aside the relative disappointment of his Gangs
of New York, Scorsese sets about delivering a five-star showpiece
of a movie that frequently soars.
The filming of the memorable Hell's Angels dogfight sequence
is an early jaw-dropper, as is the depiction of Hughes' devastating
plane crash in Beverley Hills, which almost killed him.
The verbal fireworks between DiCaprio and Alda also set the screen
alight, yet are neatly offset by quieter moments, such as the
intimate moments between Hughes and Hepburn.
And while the film might not succeed in delivering a definitive
version of the Hughes persona (for anyone who really wants to
find out what made him tick or how he came to be inspired by film
and flying), it does present an exhilirating and occasionally
painful expose of the man at the peak of his celebrity (finishing
just after the historic flight of his Spruce Goose).
It is a magnificent achievement that really ought to land some
impressive trophies come the awards season.