J. Edgar (Blu-ray)

February 21, 2012 7 Min Read

Review by: Matt Brighton

Plot: What’s it about?

I’m willing to bet that when someone hears the name “J. Edgar Hoover” that certain images of a man dressing up in women’s clothing might emerge. If that’s the case then this isn’t a fact and, more to the point, many of the things that surrounded Hoover are speculation at best. Is it really a surprise that the man who started the Federal Bureau of Investigation is shrouded in mystery? Hoover was more of a visionary and some might even say a genius. While he had no social life, he lived with his mother, never married or had children (that anyone knows of), he also managed to do several things that would be impossible to imagine life without today. He classified the Library of Congress in a catalog card system. He had the idea of fingerprinting individuals in order to classify them. He had the idea of creating a forensic lab to analyze crime scenes. Truthfully the entire “C.S.I.” franchise wouldn’t exist if there were never a J. Edgar Hoover.

The film tells the story of J. Edgar Hoover (Leonardo DiCaprio) in flashback as he’s writing his memoirs. We see a much younger version (also played by DiCaprio) as he’s just starting out in the government. He works his way up through the ranks and is eventually appointed head of the Bureau of Investigation (the word “Federal” was added at a later date) where he runs things his way. He appoints Clyde Tolson (Armie Hammer) as his second-in-command and who many believe his homosexual lover (again, nothing is proven). We follow the rise of the F.B.I. through the reign of Hoover’s administration and his constant battle with Attorney General’s and Presidents alike. Hoover evidently had dirt on everyone in power which is why he was able to maintain his post for nearly 50 years. Together with the help of his loyal secretary, Helen Gandy (Naomi Watts), the two were about as much a “couple” as they could be. Certainly J. Edgar Hoover was either loved or hated, but this biopic gives a good look at what it must have been like to be the man, myth and legend.

No doubt that the filmmakers were a bit miffed when J. Edgar failed to receive any Oscar nominations and I simply can’t get why “The Academy” constantly gives Leonardo DiCaprio the cold shoulder. I personally believe that DiCaprio is (and has been) one of the finest actors working today. It’s not often than an actor can so effortlessly pull off portraying Howard Hughes and J. Edgar Hoover. What the film did was not perpetuate the stereotype that we all have of Hoover. Yes, there are elements there, but it focuses more on his legacy as opposed to the more intimate details of his personal life. Director Clint Eastwood does a fine job with the script from Dustin Lance Black (who also wrote the screenplay for Milk) and the ensemble cast delivers as well. J. Edgar might not be the most action-packed, entertaining film of the year, but it’s well-made with fine performances from the cast and another great film from Clint Eastwood, who only seems to get better with age.

Video: How does it look?

The film has a very unique visual look to it and I’ll do my best to describe it. First off, the 2.40:1 AVC HD transfer is nearly as flawless as it gets. Granted, it’s a new to Blu-ray release from Warner so we’d expect nothing less. Most every scene seems to be shrouded in shadows. What I mean by this is that we’ll see half of the actors’ face and the other part is totally hidden. This isn’t applicable to the lead actors, rather it applies to most everyone in the film. The top and bottom seems to have some post-production gradient effect that gives the movie a bit of “tunnel vision.” It’s a rather odd look for a film, but I suppose for a movie that’s told in flashback – it does adequately convey the mood.

Audio: How does it sound?

If you want the textbook definition of a “dialogue-driven” movie then I’d have to say that this would be it. While there are a handful of “action” sequences that include some gun shots and an explosion, the majority of the movie is narrated by DiCaprio’s character. Vocals are strong, for sure, and while the front stage is utilized it doesn’t make the film. I suppose there’s no real need for a biopic to have a slam bang soundtrack (though even The Aviator did have the sequence where Hughes crashed the plane in downtown Los Angeles).

Supplements: What are the extras?

True fans of the film will most likely be let down as the only supplement included is the 18 minute featurette “J Edgar: The Most Powerful Man in the World” with interviews with the cast and crew detailing the script and the mystery that surrounded one of the most important figures of the 20th century. There’s a digital copy of the movie and the disc is UltraViolet enhanced as well.

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