(Originally written March 5, 2005)
Epics: started with The Birth of a Nation, colored for Gone With the Wind, stripped down for Seven Samurai, expanded for Lawrence of Arabia, personalized by The Godfather, brutalized by Schindler’s List and given a technological edge by The Aviator. This film has the harsh reality of a personal film like Raging Bull yet the epic scope of the awe-inspiring Lawrence of Arabia. The crisp use of color helps to bring the America of the 1940s come to life. Thelma Schoonmaker is at her best again with the editing; the crash sequence is one of the most fiercely edited and directed scenes in a Scorsese film, an impressive feat considering a career full of abrasive movies. Of course, Leonardo DiCaprio’s performance is nothing short of brilliant. People will be looking back at this performance years from now. He plays Howard Hughes with such intensity and convincingly gives an interpretation of the kind of man that Hughes became due to the pressures of society. Like Jake LaMotta in Scorsese’s Raging Bull, Hughes is often blinded in this film by the flashing cameras of the press. These flashing lights are indicative of how both Hughes and Jake LaMotta suffocated in the spotlight, publicly dealing with the demons of the past. This film is an engrossing portrayal of a great man and his downfall, a Citizen Kane-like biopic for the twenty-first century.