Grant Mitchell

Leonardo DiCaprio is an actor that from a young age showed he was capable of great things and was destined to have a career as a thespian. 

For the purpose of this review, however, I will be talking about his second collaboration with legendary director Martin Scorsese in “The Aviator.” 

“The Aviator” is under the genre of biographical drama, but the amazing direction of Scorsese coupled with Leonardo DiCaprio’s spot-on portrayal of reclusive inventor and entrepreneur Howard Hughes is stunning and a sight to behold. 

Dating back to the industrious era of mid-1960’s American manufacturing, one would be remise if they did not mention the name Howard Hughes. 

Mr. Hughes was responsible for countless inventions in the aeronautics field as well as the founding of TWA airlines. With his company also holding the distinction of challenging Pan-Am’s stranglehold on flight travel. 

Before all of this, Howard Hughes was an aspiring filmmaker. Taking his family’s drilling money and putting it into Hollywood film productions during what was an especially competitive and dirty era of filmmaking. 

While outsiders would say Hughes was searching for fame and the limelight, his intense inner-turmoil and psychosis would ultimately reveal he was looking for avenues in which to express his genius and creativity. 

The brilliance of “The Aviator” is in that it shows all of these dynamic and moving parts of Howard Hughes. 

Flowing seamlessly from one stage of his life to the next, “The Aviator” covers a large amount of Howard Hughes’ life in a near three-hour film that feels a lot shorter than its runtime would suggest. 

The first act of the film shows Howard Hughes as a young upstart with a lot of determination, vigor, talent and vision that made him famous in the first place. 

It is in this part of the film where we see Howard Hughes at his best, his agoraphobia in check and his genius left unfettered by government queries or media hatchet-job tabloids. Just young Mr. Hughes succeeding in film, aviation and celebrity. 

However this seemingly limitless success lasts only so long before Mr. Hughes’ eccentricities grow evermore noticeable and his personal mental and physical health take a dive. 

Most notably, the looming presence of Pan-Am and prodding nature of U.S. Senator Owen Brewster over Howard Hughes’ entire existence in the aeronautical world feeds to his agoraphobic tendencies. 

To make matters worse, Howard faces an uphill physical battle as well after a plane crash renders him nearly dead. The accident having been so severe it shifted his heart from one end of his chest to the other. 

Intriguingly, and much the reason as to why Howard Hughes is remembered today, Mr. Hughes bounces back from most adversity in the film, determined to persevere through his struggles. 

Unlike most stories of pushing through strife and struggle, with each instance of failure or trauma Howard grows evermore warped and falls further into his psychosis. Until we are left with a man that is unable to leave his dwellings because of the intensity of his mental ailments. 

While many biopics are perfectly happy with stylizing real-life people and turning them into unrealistic cartoonish characters, “The Aviator” delicately lays down a respectable summary of a man’s life. 

Someone who was as exceptionally gifted in his accomplishments as he was cursed by his mind and body. 

Performed by anyone else and this film wouldn’t have the same pedigree or success as it has had in the near two decades since its release. 

What makes this film lasting isn’t the perfection of the direction of the characters and plot, but is in the highlighting and study of the incredible faults of man and his dreams. 

Grant Mitchell is a senior majoring in public relations. He can be reached at gmitch16@vols.utk.edu.

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