J Edgar – 137 min - R
J. Edgar Hoover is a unique historical character that can be easily overlooked. He was credited with developing the FBI and organizing criminal investigations to include forensic investigation. With all of the good things he did for us, he was also a focus of scandal and a prime example of how absolute power corrupts absolutely. He was rumored to have surveillance on many political figures and would use them as blackmail material.
Does the movie, J. Edgar, mirror the facts of his life? I can’t say I don’t know more than what I have read on Wikipedia. Is this an intresting movie? Yes, but from a purely academic standpoint. Clint Eastwood has an eye for making movies with a clear and balanced point of view. This movie is one to see from a historical standpoint. Interesting but not entertaining, this move is a yellow light and I will present my evidence in the following review.
J. Edgar Hoover (Leonardo DiCaprio) grew up with his mother, Anna Marie Hoover (Dame Judi Dench). As an eager new employee at the Department of Justice, he was given the chance to develop the new FBI after his participation in a successful raid on some Communist dissidents. Using this opportuniy he grew his department and his influence. He used his resources to gather information on political figures to use in his “Confidential, Private” files with friend and partner, Associate Director Clyde Tolson (Armie Hammer). There are rumors that they were more than just friends, as the heir of Hoover’s estate some believe that Tolson was his domestic partner.
The story takes us from the past and the future and someplace in the middle while J. Edgar is dictating his story to a number of writers he uses to document the history of the FBI. He tells the revolving scribes about his many high adventures in the FBI, in cluding details of his acts of heroism and the hard work of starting the system we now know today as the FBI.
Most of it was fabricated to make him and his bureau more entertaining to sell some of the comic books he was advisor on. He felt that American youth was in love with the gangsters in the movies and he decided to wage a war of image and made the G-man the new focus in film and media. Unfortunately, it was at the cost of the reality of many of the things he claimed to have done.
Clint Eastwood does make a great picture. He has a great eye for capturing the figures form history that can be easily overlooked. He reminds me of the correspondents on This American Life. They all take ordinary things and make them into an interesting story. This movie looks great but it has a History Channel documentary feel.
The subject of this film has some interesting points but they seem to be overshadowed by the overall creepiness of the man behind the power and his unchecked and corrupt rule of the FBI. Eastwood’s choice of blending the past and the future did not seem to work as well in this film. It was hard to follow where we were at in the story. Is this the past? The present? Is this him reminiscing? Or are we seeing the events unfold?
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DiCaprio does a great job of wearing this persona like a costume. I forgot that it was him at a few points in the film. The age make up did a great job of transforming him through the story. He seems to be very vulnerable when his mother dies. Instead of being free from her tyranny he seems to be completely lost.
Helen Gandy (Naomi Watts) is fiercely loyal secretary and loves him in a familial way. Even up to the end she keeps J. Edgar’s secrets and shreds his personal and confidential files. I wonder it was out of loyalty or out of knowing how dangerous a weapon those files were, or both.
Those files were the only thing that saved him from the winds of political change. I can see where he needed to have them to keep control of his bureau. it also seemed like they became something more than just an insurance policy. They seemed to be a drug he couldn’t give up.
What historical figure should Clint Eastwood focus his next movie on? Who do you find interesting and under publicized?