Tuesday, November 22, 2011

"J. Edgar" (2011) - Movie Review

Clint Eastwood, that unrelenting director is a writer’s creator. He takes the material on the script and dictates what it has to say. There is not self indulgence, a style nor a narrative order to mark his signature in any of his films. It simply goes unseemly and amalgamates in to the presentation and comes out like any other good film. Even his moderately successful films have that characteristic and “J. Edgar” falls in to that as well.

John Edgar Hoover was the most powerful man to have an iron hand over the political and influential figures right from the moment he became the Director of the freshly found FBI. Played by Leonardo Di Caprio with the total dedication that is an essentiality on a biographical film, he conducts it to his best formed abilities. Written by Academy Award winning writer Dustin Lance Black who debuted strongly through “Milk”, it portrays a mysterious man coming to a world where he knew the militancy of the evolving world. He foresaw the criminal growth and the necessity to build an institution for inventive techniques to catch them, even if it required side stepping privacy and stomp on the grounds of blackmailing and hold leverage as the single tool to do what he thought of to be in the best interest of the country. As fanatics fool themselves in the guise of righteousness, Edgar is no different from those. Yet there is a story to be told on this hardened man with shadowed private life.

Eastwood gives a man who is so sure of his opinions and decisions. His certainty is followed by a fierce face and execution in delivery of his speech. He is a man judging everyone by the second and then goes onto make sure they are kept in track of their doing just so to sleep himself to peace of any iota of wrongdoing plausibly emerging in them, even in their thoughts. For a man who had nothing but trust issues, he trusts three people in his life. His mother Anna Marie (Judi Dench), his personal secretary Helen Gandy (Naomi Watts) and his second in command Clyde Tolson (Armie Hammer).

Apart from his mother, the other two marks his tremendous sense of judging a character on the nature of their loyalty to him. What they saw in this unemotional, distant, coercive and stubborn man is something we sparsely see in “J. Edgar”. The film goes through his dictation to several of his Agents who type his memoir that never got published. Then Eastwood inserts the alleging details, rumours and what not into making a film of laying down the man’s legacy both objectively and subjectively.

The problem with “J. Edgar” is the unavailability of what drives Edgar to be such a hard man to defend his country. How did patriotism birthed into him and how it became a fanatic obsession on securing his country at any cost? We meet him at the end of his career not willing to give up, even to old age and then recite his story more on his growth and struggles in building this bureau from ground up.

He goes out on date with Helen right after they meet because that is what men did and for a man who is full of ego, he takes rejection from Helen in the most amicable fashion. He then makes her his trustworthy secretary and the guardian of the private files he begins to accumulate on the figures of power. He kept those with malicious intentions of keeping himself the head of the bureau because he is the best man for the job as he has convinced himself of. And to conduct his business of absolute power onto obtaining information on citizens and on the lookout for terror and invasion, there is no way he is giving up on that. Paranoid was his best hobby.

Edgar is said to be gay and his subordinate second in hand Clyde played by Armie Hammer is the closest I could think of him being portrayed emotionally open. A mother who dictated his life to the inch was trustworthy but not emotionally available for the problems and frustrations he had to endure. Edgar as a person comes off as a man of the times. Concerned greatly about his image and his presentation, he made sure his authority remained and anyone who could question it got brushed off to the sides and behind the desks. The film reiterates those known facts than to not provide any insight on him.

The interesting part of the film are his visions of bringing technology and expertise to investigations. He brings handwriting experts, wood experts and whatever the current investigative television has taken into from technology and knowledge are provided the base in how Edgar saw several decades back. With enormous supporting cast, Edgar suffers from an emotionally vacant script which is surprising to have come from Dustin Lance Black whose debut of “Milk” was filled with it. If Eastwood went for a clinical approach in leaving the motivations of this stubborn man to interpretation and have a history lesson conducted, then it is played against his film. What ticked this complicated, arrogant, closeted, inventive and intelligent man and why it ticked him? We never get to find it.

No comments: