Director: Clint Eastwood
Cast: Leonardo DiCaprio, Josh Hamilton, Geoff Pierson , Cheryl Lawson, Kaitlyn Dever, Brady Matthews, Gunner Wright, David A. Cooper, Ed Westwick, Naomi Watts, Kelly Lester, Jack Donner, Judi Dench, Dylan Burns, Jordan Bridges.
As the face of law enforcement in America for almost 50 years, J. Edgar Hooverwas feared and admired, reviled and revered. But behind closed doors, he held secrets that would have destroyed his image, his career and his life.
“We must never forget our history. We must never lower our guard." Clint Eastwood does a remarkable job of capturing a man who aspired towards receiving national adulation in the guise of anti-communist heroism. The political upheavals and shrewd privacy of the man heading the Federal Bureau of Investigation for nearly fifty years is incredibly tracked by shuttling between the past and the present. Circumstances back then and current, are shown corresponding to each other through the foggy landscapes of memory.
Extensively shot in sun starved political corridors and stiff aristocratic office spaces, the film is a compelling watch. Almost like a docu-drama or a running monologue by a man overpoweringly asserting his own achievements. And slowly in theatre of the absurd fashion we see his vulnerabilities surface, his need to fake supremacy, pathological lying and largely under wraps homosexuality. A man who tackled communism with the intelligence that one would imply to tackle terrorism itself. Even as he grows successfully old, his obsession with communism overtakes all else and he fails to see things change for the better even during the historically progressive phases like the Civil Rights Movement. His predictions with time seeming regressive and tinged with his own desire to be in power, even at the cost of principles. A man who often romanced as well as manipulated truth to catapult himself to a celebrated league. The ambivalence is astounding in the way it brings forth deeper truths of a man keen on fingerprint mapping potential fanatics so as to downsize their presence and safeguard the average American. The movie seems topical in its plot even though Edgar died some 40 odd years ago.
We see Leornado Di Caprio playing J. Edgar in flashback mode dictating his story to a junior agent, woodenly typing his gloriously retold and spiked with exaggeration stories. We see Edgar persistently conducting G-Man attacks on gangsters, CSI innovations and unveiling secrets that would make him feared throughout Washington. A pretty typist Helen Gandy, played by Naomi Watts, rejects his abrupt advances and instead gets hired as his trusted assistant and becomes the real keeper of all his confidential files. His quasi affair with his Bureau Deputy Clyde Tolson played by Armie Hammer is very interestingly depicted. Giving the aura of brotherhood initially, but teeming beneath with a growing affection that cannot be bracketed as sexual but leaning more towards a spouse-like bonding. Their periodic aged appearances fill you with warmth towards their loyalty right until the climax. Edgar’s neediness is shockingly discovered in a dispute with his lover that shows the vulnerability that those in power can be most susceptible to. Judi Dench, mother to Edgar, is dominatingly affectionate, almost unfairly compelling him to excel and once sternly commanding him to step out of his discomfort with waltzing with women, when he stutters to express a dislike towards it. With her we see Edgar deprived of real-time bonding and in constant need of reaffirmation of everything he does. Edgar keenly wants to pursue extensive systems of classification that someday may bring an entire nation under investigation.
Di Caprio is phenomenal at depicting an intense crime solving nerd activist, hungry on the sly for the federal empire. In Edgar’s silence there is controversy brewing and you love second guessing the man even while you watch it. Even off screen records on him are hardly concrete this is why there are no major revelations that hound us. Helen his secretary is most privy to his conspiracies and stays incredibly loyal till the end, never judging his moves and staying aloof to his fetish for exposing others. Hoover losing his mother is what eventually crushes him as he could only be submissive before the few people he shared an intimacy with. The scene in which his mother reprimands him for accidentally stuttering is touching in the ruthlessness that most people in power can secretly be subjected to. There are some imbalances in his psyche that make him distort truth with the same passion with which he upholds it. Through eight presidents and three wars Hoover’s investigations stayed steadfast and were path-breaking in leveling up security for America as a whole. The film is a beautiful sketch of how he built his career from scratch, right from the Bolshevik invasions in 1919 when communism had marked its advent on American soil.
Oscar Winner Clint Eastwood of "Gran Torino," "Million Dollar Baby," &"Unforgiven" fame has directed the film with his strategic and flawless vision and the screenplay by another Oscar winner, Dustin Lance Black ("Milk"), is like the voice of Edgar unfolding on screen, in confessional mode, keeping up his own glory, robbing others expertly of credibility. A cinematic treat and a few shockingly secret discoveries of a man who was too paranoid to trust people, who despite his intensity gave in to power gimmicks and still achieved living a life of eternal secrecy. A hot pick amidst bio picks.
Verdict : A brilliant capturing of a man who aspired towards receiving national adulation in the guise of anti-communist heroism.