• Post category:Movies
  • Post last modified:September 28, 2020

The Aviator: The Way of the Future


aviatorAny filmmaker who had just spent an obscene amount of time working on a huge production the size of Gangs of New York (2002) would be forgiven for taking a few years off after completing the film. Especially when that filmmaker happens to be in his 60s. But Martin Scorsese isn’t just any director. He quickly threw himself into another epic project and brought his crew along as well as two cast members from Gangs of New York, Leonardo DiCaprio and John C. Reilly. But The Aviator actually has more in common with several other Scorsese movies that portrayed nearly crazed men mercilessly driven by a desire to accomplish something. Welcome to the world of billionaire Howard Hughes, filmmaker and aviator.

Not safe in this world
The movie opens with an eerie scene from Howard’s childhood, where the boy is being washed by his mother who keeps telling him that he isn’t safe in this world. This idea that he isn’t safe, argue the filmmakers, is why Howard Hughes developed the mental problems that would virtually incapacitate him in the late 1940s. His acute fear of germs and the obsessive washing of his hands were early signs of the illness that would make him choose isolation, preferring to do nothing but watch his movies in the nude, collect his own urine in bottles and let his hair and nails grow. This part of the film should resonate with audiences; it’s interesting, somewhat terrifying and gives a certain insight into the tragedy of this kind of compulsive behavior, how difficult it is for anyone who suffers from the illness to be rid of it.

Scorsese leaves us with the realization that it’s a losing battle – the film’s final sequence is a shot of Howard Hughes’s exhausted face as he keeps repeating the line “it’s the way of the future”.

Story moves fast
The rest of the film concerns a love affair between Hughes and Katharine Hepburn, the aviator’s fight to break Pan Am’s monopoly and his insane struggle to get a little epic called Hell’s Angels (1931) made. Writer John Logan depicts the Hughes-Hepburn fling as more serious to Hughes than it was to Hepburn who would subsequently find true love with Spencer Tracy. Cate Blanchett portrays the screen icon with great passion. It’s easy to think of her performance as somewhat overdone (this lady really was larger than life and Blanchett tries to capture all her mannerisms), but it doesn’t take long for Blanchett to create a real human being who’s merely behaving in a way which people perhaps expect from a woman who happens to be a movie star and an aristocratic Massachusetts liberal.

The story moves fast and even the lengthy battle between Hughes and Pan Am, the airline protected by a greedy senator, delivers; there’s an audience-pleasing moment where Hughes twists the senator’s arm during a congressional hearing.

DiCaprio gives one of his greatest performances as the reclusive entrepreneur; you never forget who it is you’re watching, you never completely buy that this is someone other than Leo DiCaprio, but he nevertheless shows great strength in several sequences. Perhaps he wanted to try to match the energy of both Howard Hughes and Martin Scorsese.

The latter remains a filmmaker in complete control of his work. Just look at the harrowing plane crash in Beverly Hills. Look at the meticulously detailed recreation of three decades. There’s something compulsive about his style but great things emanate from it. Imagine the fireworks should Scorsese have lived in the 1930s and made a film together with the aviator. 

The Aviator 2004-U.S. 170 min. Color. Widescreen. Produced by Michael Mann, Charles Evans, Jr., Sandy Climan. Directed by Martin Scorsese. Screenplay: John Logan. Cinematography: Robert Richardson. Music: Howard Shore. Editing: Thelma Schoonmaker. Production Design: Dante Ferretti. Cast: Leonardo DiCaprio (Howard Hughes), Cate Blanchett (Katharine Hepburn), Kate Beckinsale (Ava Gardner), John C. Reilly, Alec Baldwin, Alan Alda… Ian Holm, Gwen Stefani, Jude Law, Willem Dafoe.

Trivia: Jim Carrey was allegedly considered for the part of Hughes; producer Michael Mann’s original intention was to direct the film himself.

Oscars: Best Supporting Actress (Blanchett), Cinematography, Editing, Art Direction, Costume Design. BAFTA: Best Film, Actress (Blanchett), Production Design, Makeup/Hair. Golden Globes: Best Motion Picture (Drama), Actor (DiCaprio), Music.

Last word: “At first I said, “’Now he’Â’ll go through the entire life of Howard Hughes’.” But he didn’Â’t. What interested me is what John [Logan] chose to leave out during that period, and what he chose to combine, fictionalize, attempting to really get the spirit of what Hughes was like. This visionary who was obsessed with speed. Young, energetic, filled with wonder and excitement, not only with aviation but also of Hollywood and making big movies.” (Scorsese, About.com)



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