Directed by Clint Eastwood
Written by Dustin Lance Black
Produced by Mr. Eastwood, Brian Grazer and Robert Lorenz
Released by Warner Brothers Pictures.
Running time: 2 hours 17 minutes.
Clint Eastwood’s latest biopic chronicling the life of the 20th century FBI front-man, J. Edgar Hoover, is a sympathetic account of the man behind his public persona.
, played by a seriously stern Leonardo Dicaprio, is gifted humanity by Eastwood not exclusively, but predominantly through his relationship to Clyde Tolson (Armie Hammer). Eastwood directs the film with a slow and steady hand, paying respect to the half-century Hoover devoted to the zealous protection of his country. And although the film runs long at 2 hours and 17 minutes, it is not quite long enough to condense history in a way that makes clear sense. Of course, pre-existing knowledge of Hoover history helps, but nonetheless; the swift, seamless jumps between various decades are blurry at best. The film travels back and fourth in time so frequently that, at times, it is difficult to grab hold of the frame and anchor you in the story. America
Still, Eastwood’s treatment of the subject-matter is elegant and without judgment – questioning
’s morality without reprimanding it, empathizing with a man’s passion instead of criticizing it. Hoover
The film is saved by moments of undeniable and surprising tenderness. This relief is provided by the stoic, gentle-but-stern advice of
Hoover’s mother (Judi Dench) and his fragile, cloudy relationship with Clyde. From a mother and son waltz in a hotel room, a bloody kiss in Del Mar, to ’s cross-dressing after his mother’s death – these little moments give Hoover his humanity – a humanity that is totally crushed under his larger-than-life public persona. Hoover
Dicaprio gives Hoover his deserved severity and strength, at times touching at vulnerability, but the performance to recognize is not from the mega-star, but his supporting actor. Armie Hammer steals the show with a natural, tender, and true performance. His stature and his voice immediately draw attention, but he handles the controversial aspects of
Clyde with elegance and subtlety. He ages seamlessly and so convincingly, we forget it is even the same actor. He has a full-bodied awareness of age. Hammer’s performance is seemingly without effort and wonderful to watch. Naomi Watts lends her talents to Hoover’s backbone secretary, Helen Gandy, whose relationship with hovers somewhere between blind devotion and careful criticism. Hoover
The film is a heady historical whirlwind, with rhythm and style and intellect. The majority of the film has its roots in political drama and ethics, but it ends a story of love, friendship, and human devotion.