Like the recently released film about Margaret Thatcher, this biopic shows J. Edgar Hoover (Leonardo Di Caprio) in his prime. The director Clint Eastwood gives the audience a deep insight into J. Edgars's personal life and his establishment of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). The film covers the Great Depression, World War II and two president assassinations. It stops at his death just before the famous Watergate scandal.
We are shown in great detail, Edgar's not always legal, climb to power. The film alleges he often resorted to blackmail through surveillance. This was couched with his regimented ways and extremist right-wing ideologies. We see his open hatred for communism and its domestic concern.
Eastwood films the movie in a somewhat chronological order of J. Edgar's life. It is only intervened by the narrator Di Caprio, who is the aged version dictating his memoirs to several different assistants. This provides a path of how the audience views the film and cleverly places them back into J. Edgar's turbulent yet controlled past.
A large amount of make up is used for aging effects but Eastwood manages to keep us engaged in the characters and story line. He uses amazing camera angles, props and costumes. The noir-like colouring he uses when filming Edgar's past is especially effective.
Leonardo di Caprio
Eastwood captures Edgar's professional and personal life. But it is Di Caprio who keeps us watching this intense and dry character. He again proves his ability to portray real people as he did playing Howard Hughes in
He delivers an amazing and extremely believable performance as J. Edgar Hoover. Even when buried in makeup while playing the older Edgar, he manages to show every nervous eye twitch and emotional facial expression. This is especially the case during scenes showing his plutonic yet alleged homosexual relationship with right-hand man Clyde Tolsen (Armie Hammer).
Di Caprio perfectly captures Edgar's irrational insecurities. He fires people on the spot who he doesn't trust. He constantly asks his secretary (Naomi Watts) emotionally charged questions like
Does everyone who I love die? And he is further confused by his mother (Judi Dench) who tells her son Edgar she would rather a dead son than a daffodil – a gay metaphor.
Even as a hated man, J.Edgar's character is extremely likable. The audience wants the main character to succeed in his efforts because Eastwood continuously juxtaposes Edgar's good and bad qualities. The people closest to Edgar bring out his real, kind and likable characteristics.
Go and see it
I highly rate the film and urge anyone who wants to have a good night at the movies to see it. It provokes further social discussion about the questions it leaves unanswered about Edgar's secret life. It is a film I will be seeing again. For anyone able to see this film my advice is to tally up some quick research on J. Edgar Hoover. It helps to gain more understanding and appreciation of this interesting human being.