Review of the new feature film J.Edgar - a biopic of the life and times of J.Edgar Hoover starring Leonardo Di Caprio in the lead role .
J.Edgar - Review
It’s always a risk making a biopic – do you relate the tale in a straight chronological format or do you try and weave some intriguing story lines into the subject’s life story ? . In the newly released film J.Edgar director Clint Eastwood delivers an enthralling tale not only of the life and times of J.Edgar Hoover but also the institution over which he built and presided – The Federal Bureau of Investigation .
Eastwood manages to get the best out of both a strong cast and a clever script written by Dustin Lance Black . The film opens at the Justice Department building , the original home of the Federal Bureau of Investigation with a old and grey Hoover beginning to dictate his memoirs to the first of a series of young FBI agents who type word for word his account of the history of the organisation and it’s exploits and achievements . Using this premise the film cleverly toggles between the present and past using flashbacks showing the dramatic events that have occurred during the nearly five decade reign of J.Edgar Hoover.
Thus the film opens with the first flashback – the bombing of the home of the Attorney General , A.Mitchell Palmer in 1919 which sees a young Hoover rushing to the scene and forming his first opinions about radical activists and how to deal with them . We then see Hoover ( played impeccably by Leonardo Di Caprio ) progress from a librarian into a zealous and patriotic tracker of both real and suspected extremists gathering data and keeping more and more secret files in the process.
We see Hoover move to the Head of the Bureau and recruit a team which will become his lifelong support , Helen Gandy ( Naomi Watts ) his loyal and supportive secretary and Clyde Tolson ( Armie Hammer ) a lawyer who Hoover takes a shine to and becomes Hoover’s deputy and constant companion both in and out of the office.
The film ,although two hours and seventeen minutes in duration does not drag , the historical events that shaped the Bureau are interspersed with sequences concentrating on the people who surround Hoover - his need for approval from his mother Anna Marie Hoover ( Judi Dench ) , his close and often highly speculated intense relationship with Tolson and his need for loyal support from his secretary Helen Gandy.
There are some stand out scenes in the film that really make it worth watching – the meeting between Hoover and Bobby Kennedy and how cleverly each assesses each other and another great scene involving Richard Nixon where upon hearing about Hoover’s demise quickly forgets his grief to send a team to the Bureau to recover Hoover’s “secret” files.
As far as the cast is concerned Di Caprio delivers an outstanding performance in the lead role as Hoover cleverly portraying his zealousness but also his humanity and awkwardness in personal relationships. Di Caprio is well supported by Naomi Watts and Armie Hammer and as usual a great performance by Judi Dench as Hoover’s mother who features in a couple of poignant scenes which really get to the heart of the man and his issues.
So in summary this is a good , well directed, well constructed film with some great acting performances. I normally review films/movies released in the United Kingdom but saw this film in the US at the end of November and thought it was worth a review as it was one of the best films that I have seen in 2011 . It is in UK cinemas from January 20th 2012 – go see it , it’s worth it.