03 February 2012

Clint Eastwood's J Edgar

What stuns me about this movie is that director Clint Eastwood has taken what could have been a ponderous, confusing and difficult subject matter (too wide, too many angles), nothing less than the history and myth of the FBI and its controversial founder, J Edgar Hoover, and America's battle against the underworld, Nazi agents and communist subversives (yes, even typing that was a little confusing) and disciplined it into a graceful, moving biopic that has weight without being pompous, and has speed without over-dramatisation. That's a huge achievement, even if it feels too evenly paced. Leonardo DiCaprio is rivetting and great (an Oscar-worthy performance if there ever was one) in his sympathetic portrayal of Hoover, who in any other hands would simply be a repellant, megalomaniacal freak; It never descends to sentimentality, whether dealing with Hoover's relationship with his mother (Judi Dench), his revealing friendship with 'companion' Clyde Tolson (the subtle Armie Hammer), or his loyal secretary Ms Gandy (Naomi Watts).Scripted by Dustin Lance Black (who won an Oscar for his film Milk), the film uses back-and-present flashback device (not chronologically, thank goodness), with clarity coming from Hoover dictating his self-aggrandising memoirs (this makes the story very clear for they are virtual chapter headings).
A carefully-crafted, unexpectedly nuanced, thoroughly absorbing movie.


  1. Oh. My. God. The 'Yes Mother' bit near the end of the trailer is so Psycho. Brilliant.

  2. Dear Anon: there's a bit of that and dame Judi is chilling such a good movie. X