The Aviator (2004)
The Aviator (2004)

Genre: Drama Running Time: 2 hrs. 50 min.

Release Date: December 25th, 2004 MPAA Rating: PG-13

Director: Martin Scorsese Actors: Leonardo DiCaprio, Cate Blanchett, Kate Beckinsale, John C. Reilly, Danny Huston, Ian Holm, Alan Alda, Kelli Garner




t’s my money!” In Hollywood in 1927, young Texas industrialist Howard Hughes (Leonardo DiCaprio) spends tremendous amounts of dough to fund his picture “Hell’s Angels.” He struggles with respect, due to his age and his extravagant demands, but with the hiring of business manager Noah Dietrich (John C. Reilly), perhaps his associates will start behaving appropriately. Yet when Hughes makes wild, impractical, impulsive decisions – such as asking competitor MGM for two additional cameras to go with the overwhelming 24 he already has, or waiting inordinate amounts of time for clouds to form to shoot aerial dogfights – fewer and fewer people take him seriously. It takes a whopping two years and a staggering two million dollars before filming is finished.

“We gotta reshoot ‘Hell’s Angels’ for sound.” By the third year, everyone’s a skeptic, believing that a final version will never arrive. With a loss of $25,000 per day, Noah brings the bad news that the production simply can’t keep going. But Hughes is determined; he’s willing to risk his entire fortune to release the picture. Even the stock market crash and a crippling budget of $4 million can’t stop him from completing the against-all-odds behemoth. But is it all ultimately worth it?

When it comes to ludicrously wealthy youths with no concept of work and responsibility, Hughes is at the top. This, unfortunately, makes him a curious, unlikely, terribly unsympathetic protagonist – though a proper subject for a critical biopic. More interesting at the start, however, is the considerable assortment of notable actors embodying famous movie stars, often sounding the part but not quite looking it – ranging from Cate Blanchett to Jude Law to Gwen Stefani to Kate Beckinsale. Even the likes of Ian Holm, Alec Baldwin, Alan Alda, and Willem Dafoe pop up in random, small roles.

Aside from the onslaught of recognizable faces, “The Aviator” provides a brief history lesson about a handful of Hollywood movies and celebrities, though they’re often drowned out by the utter bizarreness of Hughes’ idiosyncrasies and eccentricities – including drinking milk, only eating carefully arranged and designed foods, obsessively overusing soap, and bagging his conquests (such as underage girls) to scandalous and dangerous extents. At certain points, his rationality – or sanity – is thoroughly questioned. “Can’t you eat ice cream from a bowl like everyone else in the world?” Nevertheless, the film is routinely engaging, rapidly changing locations and interests as it chronicles the titular character’s life highlights, even though it doesn’t tell much of a focused story, instead merely moving through various headline-worthy events.

Hughes’ predilection for flying leads him to set some records and to pursue the construction of monumental aircrafts – lending to one of the most riveting of all crash sequences – but it’s the humorous scenarios, such as defending the amount of revealed cleavage in “The Outlaw,” that keep the production modestly entertaining. The rest of the time, Howard’s inability to function like a relatable, mature, normal human being (he’s constantly plagued by distrust, germaphobia [mysophobia], compulsions, and breaks from reality) is detrimental to caring about his successes and failures. He’s not crazy enough to be fascinating, nor impressive enough to be worthy of such detailed attention.

Because of that, the colossal three-hour runtime is tedious, even with director Martin Scorsese’s dependable handling of drama and strained relationships. Hughes is just too pampered and paranoid and peculiar, with no information, admirable or otherwise, about his continued streams of resources; depicted here, he’s not business savvy or entrepreneurial, instead making only unceasing poor decisions, and enduring nothing but financial failures, yet continuing to receive government contracts. It’s as if he hemorrhages money yet never runs out. By the end of it all, he doesn’t appear like the kind of person that warrants this type of exhaustive biography, idolizing this noteworthy yet disagreeable figure, placing him at the center like some sort of larger-than-life American hero.

– Mike Massie

  • 6/10