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The Aviator

Genre: Drama
Rated: PG-13
Directed by
: Martin Scorsese
Produced by: Michael Mann, Sandy Climan, Graham King, Charles Evans Jr.
Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Cate Blanchett, Kate Beckinsale, Alec Baldwin, John C. Reiley, Alan Alda, Gwen Stefani, Jude Law
Released by: Warner Bros. Pictures and Miramax Films

In Short: Brilliant entertainment piece loosely representing the life of equally brilliant Howard Hughes.

Soaring Sensation
Ambitious Aviator Goes the Distance
By Cherie Saunders

Leonardo DiCaprio teams with director Martin Scorsese for another outstanding picture, which won five Academy Awards for Art Direction, Cinematography, Costume Design, Editing and Supporting Actress for Cate Blanchett. DiCaprio stars as billionaire industrialist, movie producer and aviator Howard Hughes, one of the most compelling figures of the 20th century, who became even more noted for his odd behavior near the end of his years.

Following his life from the mid-1920s through the 1940s, “The Aviator” begins on the set of his groundbreaking film, “Hell’s Angels.” Barely out of his teens, Hughes used the inherited fortune from his dad’s drill bit company to fund the World War I dogfight-themed epic. The movie broke new ground in filmmaking, and plunged him into the world of celebrity. His revolving door of starlet paramours included a feisty Katherine Hepburn, captured beautifully by Cate Blanchett, and a strong-willed Ava Gardner, portrayed with grace by Kate Beckinsale. Pop singer Gwen Stefani makes a brief appearance as Jean Harlow, Hughes’ date to his first movie premiere.

His obsession with being grandiose in his filmmaking and romantic life also presented itself in his aviation ambitions. Founding Hughes Aircraft Company and breaking several speed records, Hughes also became the most prolific American flyer since Charles Lindbergh. He buys TWA airlines in the 1930s and does battle with Pan American Airways’ head, Juan Trippe, played by Alec Baldwin. Intent on moving America into the Jet Age, his obsession with being bigger and better also fuels his attempt to build the largest plane in the world. Sadly, his fiercely competitive personality was rooted in an undiagnosed obsessive-compulsive disorder that led to a number of phobias and his ultimate retreat from the world.

Scorsese, who directed DiCaprio in 2002’s “Gangs of New York,” gets another breathtaking performance from the 30-year-old actor, while using cinematic innovations to bring the time period to life. Also starring Jude Law as Errol Flynn, “The Aviator” simply soars, taking the careers of DiCaprio and his co-stars to thrilling new heights.

Joe Lumière’s Take

How do you bash a movie that garnered five Academy Awards? Well, if you are a fan of aviation and an admirer of Howard Hughes, it’s quite easy. “The Aviator” is a total disgrace and an insult to one of the greatest men of the last century, and contains mostly erroneous information and anachronisms when it comes to flying. There is so little in fact about Hughes’ aviation achievements (he possessed most aviation records of that time, including his around the country and world flights, as well as numerous inventions and patents) that one wonders how the producers dared name the movie “The Aviator.” Certainly aviation and air transport would not be what they are today without Hughes’ contributions. Important details about his life were also omitted, like the fact that he was married when he arrived in Los Angeles and that despite his illnesses and phobias, he continued to develop businesses and grow richer in his reclusive days. Hughes achieved all this short of a miracle, considering the ample airplane and automobile crashes he suffered causing severe head injuries. There is not doubt that for entertainment purposes the movie did well, but…

Book recommendation: Should you want to read about the real Howard Hughes, here are a couple books to set you in the right direction:

Howard Hughes' Airline: An Informal History of TWA
by Robert J. Serling

Howard Hughes: Aviator
by George J. Marrett


(Updated: 01/21/08 NJ)

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