October 31, 2014
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J. Edgar
Don Fowler
4 stars
Reviewer's Rating:

(Stunning portrait of power)

J. Edgar Hoover was once considered the most powerful man in the United States. Director Clint Eastwood has given us a stunning portrait of this complex man, with all of his talents and flaws exposed.

Leonardo DiCaprio will certainly be an Oscar contender for his role as J. Edgar, and the make-up artist should be right up there, showing J. Edgar, his close ally Clyde Tolson (Armie Hammer) and secretary (Naomi Watts) travel through the aging process.

The two and a quarter-hour movie is told in flashbacks, as an aging Hoover tells his life story, as he perceives it, to a writer.

We meet a young, ambitious Hoover, eager to fight Communism as he begins his career back in 1919. His first claim to fame is developing a card catalogue at the Library of Congress, with plans to develop the system into one that will catalogue anyone he believes is a threat to his beloved country.

We watch history being made from the Bolshevik bombings, through the era of gangsterism, where men like Al Capone and “Machine Gun” Kelly were made into folk heroes, through the Lindbergh kidnappings, Martin Luther King, Eleanor Roosevelt, the Kennedy assassination, Hoover's strained relationship with Nixon, and finally his death.

Eastwood cleverly jumps back and forth in time, connecting all the dots and telling the incredible story from both Hoover's point of view and what really happened. We get insights into Edgar's relationship with his domineering mother (Judi Dench), who had a major influence on his life.

The most interesting and complex relationship is between Edgar and his "closest friend" and assistant, Clyde Tolson. There are hints at a relationship that is much more than male bonding, and an uncompromising loyalty that knows no bounds until Edgar pushes Clyde too far and is told what a "horrible little man" he is.

There is so much information in this movie, making the two and a quarter hours fly by.

You will see the portrayal of a man who was thought by many to be a national hero who kept the reds from our doorstep. You will also see a "horrible little man" who would do anything it takes to get his way, thrived on his powerful position, and had a very mean streak in him. Knowledge is power, and J. Edgar Hoover had both. You may like him or hate him, but you will also pity him.

Rated R, with some profanity (Nixon had a filthy mouth) and a bit of sex and violence. It would be a good history lesson for the younger crowd, and a reminder to all of us that history can repeat itself.


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