The Aviator traces the life of legendary billionaire, playboy, independent filmmaker, and aviation pioneer Howard Hughes from 1927 to 1947.
The story begins during production of Hughes' air battle epic Hell's Angels, delayed due to his fixation with insignificant details. When the end of filming coincided with the advent of talkies, Hughes reshot the entire picture with sound -- at a cost of $4 million, it was the most expensive picture ever made.
Hughes' obsession with aircraft would continue. He later bought TWA, set an air speed record, created a spy plane (and suffered extreme injuries and burns in a spectacular crash during its test flight), and also built and flew the infamous troop ship dubbed the Spruce Goose.
Leonardo DiCaprio shines as the tortured industrialist, despite his squeaky voice and the fact he bears no resemblance to Hughes. Completely assuming the role, it is the best performance of his career. Not only do we see Hughes' genius, but the beginnings of his OCD, paranoia, and fear of germs, all of which foreshadows the recluse to come. Cate Blanchett's portrayal of Katherine Hepburn, with whom Hughes had a lengthy and torrid relationship, is astounding; she perfectly recreates the unique vocalizations and bearing of the screen icon. Also appearing in smaller roles are Alan Alda, Alec Baldwin, Willem Dafoe, Kate Beckinsale as Ava Gardner, Jude Law as Errol Flynn, and singer Gwen Stefani as Jean Harlow.
Under the capable hands of director Martin Scorsese, the film is stylish and riveting. The story advances quickly with no extraneous scenes, but ends up being a little too long. Further, due to Scorsese's own obsession with putting art over entertainment, he has inexplicably and needlessly tinted everything green in the first half of the movie blue.
Overall, The Aviator is a magnificent depiction of a decadent time and those who lived it. For them, the Depression and WWII were nothing more than trivialities in the news. A captivating era. A captivating man. A captivating film. Rating: 8 out of 10.