The Aviator is a rousing entertainment that does not shy away from the darkest aspects of Howard Hughes' life. The first hour of The Aviator feels like the most fun Martin Scorsese has had behind a camera in over a decade. The extended sequence of Hughes attempting to get Hell's Angels completed to his detailed ideal is the closest Scorsese himself has ever come to an onscreen biography of his own work habits. A notorious obsessive, Scorsese recognizes those traits in Hughes and with the assistance of a never-better Leonardo DiCaprio creates an affectionate but realistic look at Hughes' successes and demons. Though the film feels a bit overlong, it never loses the audience's interest, thanks in large part to DiCaprio's determined blue eyes. Those eyes are always able to communicate the intensity of Hughes' feelings -- be it his passion for women and aviation, or his fear of losing control. He is matched in the early part of the film by an as always first-rate Cate Blanchett, who manages to embody Katharine Hepburn without turning her into a caricature, showcasing her intelligence and humor without shying away from her own faults. They make arguably the most sympathetic couple in a Scorsese film since Kris Kristofferson and Ellen Burstyn in Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore. From his decision to replicate the look of the old two-strip Technicolor process (hence the blue peas and the blue golf course), to his first ever use of CGI effects, Scorsese utilizes every tool at a filmmaker's disposal. But for all of the filmmaking pyrotechnics, it is the clear-eyed empathy Scorsese brings to The Aviator that makes it one of the most emotionally rewarding films of his career.
by Perry Seibert review