The Aviator (2004)

The Aviator (2004)

2004 PG-13 170 Minutes


Martin Scorsese’s Oscar-winning biopic about the life of film-maker and aviation pioneer Howard Hughes from 1927 to 1947, during which time he became a successful film producer and an aviation ma...

Overall Rating

8 / 10
Verdict: Good

User Review

  • WHAT I LIKED: By this point in his career, the great Martin Scorsese was starting to make a bit of a habit out of letting his obsession with the mechanics of realities turn what should be cinematic endeavours into decade-spanning documentaries. In many ways, 'The Aviator,' falls into a similar trap, as - much like his 'Casino,' 'Kundun,' and 'Gangs of New York,' - it plays out almost like a quick-cut montage of real-world events in which his latest real-world subject Howard Hughes (Leonardo DiCaprio) makes one flippant, philanthropic demand after the other.

    But what this film has that those were lacking is one fascinating and elusive central character who you spend the entirety of film attempting to understand. Like any number of Scorsese's leading men, his career successes are clearly at odds with his personal demons, and throughout the course of the film his two lives begin to invade each other. DiCaprio and Scorsese have him start out almost frighteningly joyous and passionate making Hell's Angels and engineering/flying his planes, but then we see him outside of that wearing either a fake smile or a strained, terrified expression. He opens up to his wife Katherine Hepburn (masterfully played by Cate Blanchett) about his fears and hallucinations, then becomes increasingly compulsive and paranoid after she leaves him.

    That's made all the more captivating because Scorsese starts the film with a tiny scene of him being bathed by his mother as a boy where the camera is drawn to the intricate details of the sponge and water and the spelling of words, so you're always thinking back to that to consider where both his underlying drive and demons came from. By the end, you feel you really do have a handle on the man, and the result is a masterful, tragic, suffocating character study which concludes in equal parts by celebrating his achievements and acknowledging his demons whilst accepting that they can - if never peacefully - coexist.

    WHAT I LIKED: There is an awful lot of plot to get through, so every time you feel like you're getting to take him in, you're whisked off to the next year.

    VERDICT: 'The Aviator,' may be another decade-spanning documentary from Scorsese, but it's also a brilliantly tragic character study about one fascinating, obsessive individual.