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Leo's Masterpiece
drplw19 January 2005
There is no doubt that THE AVIATOR is the masterpiece of both director Martin Scorsese and actor, Leonardo DiCaprio. DiCaprio becomes Howard Hughes. The actor is so profoundly absorbed in the role that the DiCaprio we know from other films cannot be found in this film. It is a bravura performance of great depth and magnitude. DiCaprio richly deserves his first Academy Award.

I have never know much about Howard Hughes. This film opened my eyes to him as a personality, a businessman, aviator and his lavish lifestyle. DiCaprio no longer is the "pretty boy" from other films. The expressions he takes on are not handsome, the deeply furrowed brow, one could actually watch him, as Hughes' character, think his way through challenging situations, the mark of a highly gifted actor. Watching DiCaprio evolve into the paranoid schizophrenic Hughes in the latter part of the film is a stunning example of pure acting. Leo deserves recognition for recreating a most difficult personality.

Though the film is long, it never slows down nor gets boring and it commanded my attention from start to finish. It is masterpiece cinema for these two men and for other actors too. Cate Blanchette must be commended for her role as Katherine Hepburn. Every role was played by first rate actors.

If you want to understand a piece of American history from the 30s through the 1940s, this film will illumine you. It may not be the greatest film ever made but it sure is cinema to the max and worth seeing, without a second thought.
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Falling Short of Greatness...Again
Rathko21 December 2004
Scorsese has such an encyclopedic knowledge and understanding of cinema that every shot, however inventive and daring, is effortlessly composed. The direction, editing and cinematography are all the first-rate work by individuals who are clearly masters of their profession and the production design, costumes and makeup are the best you'll see all year. Their efforts combine to create a world of rich and lavish color, of excitement and glamour. Who wouldn't want to visit THIS Cotton Club in 1935? It's hard to imagine who could trump the technical team for Oscars this year.

With such a perfectly realized world in which to perform, the actors universally do an outstanding job. Despite the criticism of the hardcore DiCaprio-haters, the unprejudiced will observe an excellent performance that takes genuine risks and convincingly conveys the passing of more than twenty years. Importantly, DiCaprio more than holds his own when paired with Cate Blanchett and especially Alan Alda, who both give equally note worthy performances. Blanchett's interpretation of Katherine Hepburn seems spot on, and anyone familiar with the late actresses mannerisms will appreciate the hard work that clearly went into the recreation. Alda, one of the most consistently underrated actors around, delivers another masterclass in restrained character building as he oozes ambition and political dishonesty from every pore.

And yet, despite the obvious talent of all those involved and Scorsese's ability to effortlessly fill three hours, something about The Aviator fails to completely satisfy. Without wanting to sound like a film student, movies should, ultimately, be ABOUT something; love, honor, courage, redemption, the BIG ideas and themes that are the fuel of the plot. What was the drive of The Aviator? A rich guy recklessly spends lots of money to indulge his personal obsessions and gets away with it. We're never told how his experiences change him, and without change there's no journey. Considering the screenplay was written by John Logan, who usually displays a keen interest in showing the emotional evolution of his characters, the oversight is inexplicable. Ultimately then, much like Gangs of New York, The Aviator is simply the sum of it's parts, and however brilliantly those parts are realized, there doesn't seem to be a bigger theme to underpin and drive them.

The Aviator is a perfectly realized recreation of the era and one well worth experiencing. But the lack of a real emotional journey suggests 'all gloss and no substance', and ultimately prevents the movie from being truly great.
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Mister104517 December 2004
This is an astonishingly beautiful and moving film. Martin Scorcese has created a seminal work -- one that brings the harrowing, big-studio, adult movie making of the 1970's and totally reinvents and reinvigorates it for today's audience.

The story traces the rise and demise of billionaire Howard Hughes as he struggles to find meaning and purpose in a life unfettered by concerns of money, talent or opportunity. Whether trying to get a plane off the ground or a young starlet into bed, Hughes attacks life with a fierce gusto -- plagued and prodded by obsessive compulsive germphobia that constantly threatens to consume and defeat him.

DiCaprio is amazing! It's the performance no one thought he was capable of. It is a dynamic, smart, funny, articulate, intense, mature and ultimately harrowing performance that relaunches his career as one of American's finest actors. At the end of the film, you just want to take him in your arms and sob. It's really that good.

Cate Blanchett is incredible as Katherine Hepburn. At first, I was a little thrown by how bravely she attacked the Hepburn trademark voice, but I was completely won over by the second line. It is a tender, funny, incredibly convincing star turn that supplies the heart for the first half of the film. The scene where she takes Howard home "for dinner" with the family is a classic! Kate Beckinsale does a surprisingly fine job with Eva Gardner -- conveying the slow burning passion of this Hollywood icon without ever lapsing into mere mimicry.

But, in the end, this isn't a love story -- it's a war story -- a war between Howard's unstoppable will and his fierce inner demons battling for Howard's soul. It is the major relationship in the movie and the true heart of the film -- one that fuels his eccentric genius and yet constantly threatens to rip his life apart. He tries to ignore it by sleeping with every beauty in town. He tries to outrun it, building faster and faster airplanes. Yet, it is his one constant companion from early childhood to his ultimate, inescapable end. And it is this relationship that leaves you devastated at the end of the film.

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Open the Door...
jon.h.ochiai13 February 2005
Martin Scorsese's "The Aviator" is grand spectacle with a reverence for the nostalgic, set in simpler times. As a snapshot of Howard Hughes's life from 1927 to 1947, "The Aviator" is a portrait of a man of genius and unmatched innovation, and also a man debilitated by severe obsessive compulsive disorder and extreme depression. "The Aviator" has an amazing performance by Leonardo DiCaprio as Howard Hughes, and a mesmerizing performance by Cate Blanchett, who seems to inhabit the role of Katherine Hepburn-- the love of Hughes's life. However, the one indelible image I have of the film is the scene in which Hughes is frozen in the men's restroom, because he can't make himself touch the door knob for fear of germs and contamination. Granted this was a time before obsessive compulsive disorder existed as a diagnosis. The scene is intended as a dramatic arc, distinguishing a tragic flaw in Hughes. However, for me it seemed overly indulgent, and was curious regarding the scene length. Much like most of the nearly 3 hour movie, this is an exercise in indulgence, and attention to detail that is only that. Scorsese's balance between Hughes's genius and his great suffering is good melodrama, but not very inspiring. I have a particular affinity for Howard Hughes the man. Had John Lone's (and Michael Mann's) story followed Hughes through the 1950's and beyond, the story would be even sadder. "The Aviator" illustrates the highs of genius, and the abyss of near insanity. This is an accurate depiction of an amazing man's life, but it is skewed toward the broken aspect. So just personally for me, it was frustrating to watch. To Scorsese's credit, one gets that he has immense compassion for Howard Hughes.

Hughes' life sentence is established in the opening scene. Hughes's mother while bathing the young Hughes, tells him something that perhaps leads to his obsessive compulsive nature. Apparently he is incomplete in his relationship with his mother, and the story surrounding what she said.

Fast forward to 1927, when Hughes left his father's wealthy drill bit tool company in Texas, to be a maverick film maker in California. Hughes is an ambitious and novice film director, but he is smart and has unmatched drive. However, his real genius is as a pilot and an innovative designer of airplanes. His gifts for fame and fortune are established. Hughes (DiCaprio) then pursues a touching romance with Katherine Hepburn (Blanchett). This is the highlight of "The Aviator", even amidst the spectacular aerial cinematography, because it is just about relationships that move people. There is a wonderful moment when Hughes lets Hepburn take control of his plane as they fly above Los Angeles at night. As great as the chemistry is between Dicaprio and Blanchett, this romance part of the story goes on a little too long in the context of the movie.

From this point on, the movie becomes increasingly darker. Sure, Hughes has his share of triumphs, but everything is tempered by his spiraling decline into depression and his debilitating obsessive compulsive disorder. The acting is outstanding throughout the picture. This is Leonardo DiCaprio's most mature performance. He truly captures Hughes's intensity, genius, and charm. His suffering also elicits great compassion. Cate Blanchett is outstanding as Kate Hepburn. At first one wonders whether she is doing a caricature of Hepburn. She is not. She is being Hepburn. Blanchett's performance is simply stunning. An unrecognizable Kate Beckinsale is awesome as Ava Gardner. Beckinsale gives surprising layers to Gardner, who is really not all that she appears to be on the surface. John C. Reilly is fabulous as Hughes's CFO. In an understated fashion Reilly's performance anchors the movie. Alec Baldwin as Pan Am CEO, Juan Trippe, and Matt Ross as Hughes's engineer Glenn Odekirk give strong performances.

Scorsese's "The Aviator" is spectacular to view, and has a sense of history and tragedy. He offers an interesting portrait of the dichotomy between genius and madness, with an emphasis on the dark. This choice really lost me. "The Aviator" is amazing work, that is not very inspiring, though it was probably not intended to do so. That is a bit of a disappointment.
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For once the hype is accurate! A must see!
jen083022 January 2005
Leonardo Dicaprio, once again, shows his depth as an artist and his ability to carry a film. He deserves the Golden Globe, and his due as an outstanding actor. Howard Hughes, the man, remains a mystery and the portrayal of his obsessive compulsive disorder was a powerful view into his inner hell. The beginning scene set the pace for a journey into his privileged and dark world. The Aviator showed the torments and gifts of genius. Amazing job by all involved! Wardrobe, music, special effects, direction, acting...all award winning contributions. I left the film moved and disturbed, which shows the power of this film. Wonderful performances by all the cast and the time"flew" by...
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A Striking and Ambitious Saga
RobertF8714 January 2005
Warning: Spoilers
This film is about the world famous multi-millionaire Howard Hughes. However, if the only thing you know about Hughes was that he was a recluse who secreted himself inside his hotel in Las Vegas and was obsessed with cleanliness, you may be in for a surprise. The film deals with Hughes' life before all that.

After a brief prologue showing Hughes as a child with his mother advising him on cleanliness, we move forward to 1927 with an adult Hughes (played by Leonardo DiCaprio) directing his hugely risky film "Hell's Angels". "The Aviator" takes in Hughes' film-making achievements, his romances with some of the most beautiful women of the day (including Katherine Hepburn (a superb Cate Blanchett) and Ava Gardner (Kate Beckinsale)) and his passion for aviation. The picture of Howard Hughes that emerges from the film is of a brilliant man who was a ruthless perfectionist, constantly risking ruin and even death for his goals. This all makes his eventual fate all the more sad.

The film is brilliantly made, the cast are all very good in their roles (especially, as mentioned earlier, Blanchett as Katherine Hepburn) and despite lasting almost three hours, it is never dull. The main flaw, however, is that you never learn much about Hughes. Some more on his background would certainly have been welcome.

Any film by Scorsese, however, is worth seeing and this is no exception.
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Obsessively Watchable.
nycritic14 December 2005
Warning: Spoilers
Not many directors can say that their film-making careers haven't become as predictable as the next day, and for all its ups and downs and questionable choices, Martin Scorcese, with or without an Academy Award for Best Director, can stand proud and say that he is one of those few who have made at least one stellar film per decade since he began making films in the 1970s and continues making high-quality films for the serious moviegoer. Or, as it could be said, he makes the films he wants to make whether they become critical successes or failures.

Coming out of GANGS OF NEW YORK he decides to film this biopic about media dinosaur Howard Hughes at a time when the average moviegoer is more interested in the likes of Paris Hilton and her increasingly cretinous presence which has nothing to bring to society except smutty videotapes. In a year filled with biopics, THE AVIATOR is an important one, if trivially flawed, because in taking such a character and without sentiment analyzing his truly remarkable but ultimately tragic life he achieves a sharper view. Leonardo diCaprio as Howard Hughes does not have even a remote physical resemblance to the actual man, but there was no doubt in my mind that he was Hughes from head to toe. It's as if he studied Hughes through film reels because he gets him right and that makes his performance multi-dimensional. Watch a short, apparently unimportant scene with a bar-waitress early in the film and see how this establishes who he is in relation to women, what he thinks of them. Watch how diCaprio brings Hughes obsession with perfection and cleanliness to life: in film-making, in building the perfect plane. And watch those testosterone-fuled sequences in which Hughes breaks aviation records (almost killing himself at one point).

It can be said that THE AVIATOR is divided into two parts: The first half, which focuses on Hughes relationship with screen icon Katharine Hepburn (Cate Blanchett), and the second half which takes off from where she leaves and his obsessive-compulsive disorder, previously kept under control (suggesting she gave him some stability), comes flooding through unmonitored. During the first half of the movie DiCaprio and Blanchett create a perfect pair of social outcasts, and had the film ended there, this would have been a powerfully tragic love story. I got the sense, without reading Kate's autobiography, that these two really loved each other and were each other's complement. Hepburn's mercurial approach to Hughes must have obviously intoxicated him, and I could perceive (through Blanchett's flawless conveyance of Hepburn) that she was intrigued by this odd man, and of course, being so cerebral, she felt compelled to getting to know him. However, their differences could not have been better reflected in the disastrous scene when Hughes meets Hepburns family and though they remained together a bit longer, his womanizing was the cause for her abandonment of him and the gut-wrenching sequence in which be burns his clothes and orders work associate Noah Dietrich (John C. Reilly) to buy him more.

The second half doesn't lag. It does feel a little episodic, but Scorcese manages to make transitions smooth, while introducing players in the latter part of his life, such as Ava Gardner, Juan Trippe, and Senator Ralph Owen Brewster. As the case with many of Scorcese films, length and editing is an issue, and reducing the inclusion of starlet Faith Domergue would have been preferable, but again, Scorcese is making the film he chooses to make and this is really a quibble in my behalf, because soon later Hughes is back in action defending his usage of his own money during the war against accusations from Senator Brewster (Alan Alda, playing him like a snake). No punches are also thrown when the aforementioned OCD kicks in and Hughes starts to see things and becomes a virtual recluse, urinating into glass jars and watching the same movie over and over again (the movie in question was not THE OUTLAW as seen here, but the usage of this archive footage seems appropriate since it sums up his attitude toward women and a lost love in Kate Hepburn). Here is when DiCaprio really sinks his teeth into his role in making Hughes a broken man unable to cope with his madness and needing to defend himself against Brewster and Trippe.

Regardless to minor character inconsistencies and half-told story lines and that many of the actors look nothing like their real-life counterparts (i.e. Gwen Stefani as Jean Harlow, Jude Law as Errol Flynn, and a glaringly miscast Kate Beckinsale as Ava Gardner), THE AVIATOR is solid entertainment and highly recommended to anyone who loves old movies and old Hollywood.
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Leo's best
sowowme20526 October 2006
Leonardo D. was absolutely amazing. He was so accurate in the actions of someone with OCD. I have that disorder and he is so relatable. I know that the movie is about Howard Hughes (who was an absolute genius, even though he was a mad man), but Leo's performance was amazing. This is the movie that made people forget his role in Titanic and respect him as the amazing actor he is. I also really liked the costumes and music. The lipstick, the hair... again, they were right on for the period. Cate Blanchett made a perfect Katherine Hepburn. She was able to become the loud, powerful, intelligent woman that was Katherine Hepburn.

If you haven't seen the movie yet you are truly missing out.
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An Interesting Muddle
WriterDave22 January 2005
"The Aviator"--a biopic of Howard Hughes-- is clearly one of Scorsese's lesser works. Still, a lesser work from Scorsese is far superior to the greatest work of your average director. Here's the rundown:

The first quarter of the film is a total triumph, showing the young Hughes' bold endeavors in film when he produced what was at the time the most expensive and lavish film ever made. Scorsese tipping his hat to old Hollywood is the most fun he has had since "Goodfellas." The costumes, set designs, and pacing of this portion of the film are stunning and suck the viewer in.

The rest of the film, despite Scorsese's amazing and vivid attention to detail, is a muddled mess, giving us glimpses into Hughes' obsessive (and compulsive) ways, his womanizing, his ambitious foray into aviation and the early days of commercial flight, his fight against Congress at the end of WWII, and the notorious plight and ultimately single flight of his infamous "Spruce Goose." It's all semi-educational and semi-entertaining, but in the end I think the complicated life of Hughes remains a mystery.

As for the performances, they are amazing (thanks in most part to Scorsese, the ultimate actor's director). Leonardo Dicaprio in the title role gives yet another performance that goes against my natural loathing of him, and although he seems a bit too boyish playing Hughes in the latter years (and the film really suffers for it), he's impeccable for the better part of the film. Cate Blanchett as Katherine Hepburn is simply stunning and steals every moment she is on screen. Her look, her mannerisms, and her speech perfectly match the screen legend to a haunting degree. Alan Alda and Alec Baldwin in supporting quasi-villain roles are methodically perfect. And the nicest surprise was Kate Beckinsale, a normally flaccid actress, playing Ava Gardner. She came across as gorgeous, intelligent, and maximized her minimal screen time without ever overtly stealing her scenes. Like Sharon Stone in "Casino" and Cameron Diaz in "Gangs of New York" Scorsese once again coaxes a great performance out of an otherwise unremarkable pretty face.

In the end, "The Aviator" flies high thanks to Scorsese and the acting, even if the real person it depicts remains lost in a muddle of half truths and speculation.
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Ambitious, Impeccably-Acted, DELIVERS
gmorgan-46 December 2004
Martin Scorsese's most recent ambitious project does not disappoint.

I just saw this film in a special preview for NYU film students, with Martin Scorsese there to discuss and answer questions after, and I must say, it was pretty phenomenal. It is Martin Scorsese's best work since Goodfellas (this is obvious) and most probably his best work since Raging Bull. DiCaprio's character study of Howard Hughes, and his devotion to this role, is exquisite and reminiscent even of Robert De Niro's in Raging Bull. The film is lengthy, but this compliments it, for the story is riveting and the production is practically flawless (even the combination of computerized processes and more traditional photography was smooth and effective).

The presentation of the film, in an evolving color (from two-tone Technicolor, as Martin explained it to us, to three-tone, to modern by the later sequences) is absolutely stunning, and the cinematography by renowned Robert Richardson, ASC, is some of the best I've seen (and, in my opinion, deserving of an Oscar).

Cate Blanchett was impeccable as Katharine Hepburn, though, at times, I felt that the complexity of her character was never really deeper than a surface analysis.

She did her role flawlessly, but this is not to say that it really Alec Baldwin portrayed one of the flattest villains I've seen in a major motion picture, but, again, this is about Howard Hughes, and DiCaprio's performance is worthy of an Oscar nod at least, and perhaps an Oscar Win (certainly the best performance I've seen all year).

One of my few complaints, though, is the lengthy sequences featuring Howard Hughes as a solo aviator. Though interesting, entertaining even, the film was long enough already, and did not require such an exhaustive analysis of individual flight procedures.

Also, it seems that some of the themes were almost too redundant, such as the ways in which Hughes' psychological problems were performed. Much of the Hollywood history is good, even interesting, but it also sometimes seemed a bit self-indulgent, to the point where you questioned the necessity of ALL of those nightclub sequences in the film.

But, besides those relatively few complaints, it is a spectacular film.

In all: do not miss it.

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The Katharine Hepburn Show.
colonel_green26 December 2004
Before Howard Hughes was a recluse so reclusive as to out-Salinger J.D. Salinger, he was a big time stud, who made big movies, flew fast planes, and courted gorgeous ladies; so say Martin Scorsese and John Logan, architects of this latest Hollywood biopic.' Leonardo DiCaprio continues his trend of turning in great performances with great directors, playing Howard Hughes between 1927 and 1947, the years where Hughes conquered the worlds of film and aviation, making room for romance with Katharine Hepburn (Cate Blanchett) and Ava Gardner (Kate Beckinsale). In later years, Hughes's mental problems would become legendary; at this stage in the game, he suffers only from pronounced germ phobia and mild obsessive-compulsive disorder. This is all expertly depicted by Scorsese, Logan, and DiCaprio. Stealing all her scenes is Cate Blanchett, who should start making room on her mantle for her Best Supporting Actress Oscar. It couldn't have been easy to play an iconic movie star like Katharine Hepburn, but Blanchett aces it. Kate Beckinsale, Kelli Garner (Faith Demorgue), and Gwen Stefani (Jean Harlow) are the other women in Howard's life, although none are as clearly defined as Blanchett/Hepburn. The villains of the piece are Alec Baldwin and Alan Alda, playing, respectively, Pan-American Airways CEO Juan Trippe and Trippe's bought-and-paid-for politician, Senator Ralph Owen Brewster. Both excel, with Alda coming off as both slimy and goofy at the same time. Alec Baldwin, like Cate Blanchett, steals every scene he has, playing Trippe as a delightfully suave villain. In his final scene he delivers a wonderful monologue on the future of Hughes's Trans-World Airline, and caps it off with the most hysterical use of the F word in many years. Also appearing: the dependable John C. Reilly as Hughes's business manager Noah Dietrich; Jude Law, who apparently can't go two weeks without seeing himself in a different movie, as movie legend Errol Flynn; Brent Spiner (yay!) as airplane executive Robert Gross; and Willem Dafoe as a photographer. "The Aviator" is overlong, and drags in places, but it is a great movie. I rate it a 9/10.
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Insightful and well done
SBrown667718 January 2005
Scorsese does it again with this period piece detailing the life of the eccentric millionaire Howard Hughes (Leonardo DiCaprio). The film opens with Howard directing his 1930 war epic, "Hell's Angels." Which took 3 years and 4 million dollars to make (not a small chunk of change back then, not even that small now). The movie moves to his meeting and subsequent courting of Katharine Hepburn, played exceptionally well by Cate Blanchett. It also depicts him moving on to the likes of Ava Gardner and Faith Domergue. "The Aviator" shows us the many aspects of Hughes' being, both good and bad. He is a dreamer, sparing no expense to make his movies or build his aviation empire, despite the financial trouble it causes the company which he inherited from his family that is based in Houston (the name of the company escapes me. We also see his obsessive compulsive nature, afraid of contracting germs and constantly trying to stay as clean as possible. When Errol Flynn grabs a pea off of Hughes' plat with a nice cut of meat on it, Hughes pushes it aside with only one bite gone. Also, Hughes is contracted by the government to make fighter planes and an "air-boat," a giant airplane that can transport the troops, their equipment, and transportation across the Atlantic so that German u-boats will stop taking down U.S. submarines and ships. He call's it "The Hercules." The project takes too long, and it isn't completed in time to help in the war. Well, Hughes' new airline TWA doesn't amuse the big wigs at Pan Am Airlines, so their owner uses his personnel senator (Leon Brewster of Maine) to get a bill before Congress to put a monopoly on international aviation travel. Hughes takes on Brewster and his hearing and wins, then he takes the maiden voyage of his "Spruce Goose," as Brewster called it, and retires the vessel forever. If you didn't know who Hughes was before this movie, then it will give you a great foundation on which to build knowledge of this quite intelligent, quite intriguing man. DeCaprio turns in a superb performance, further distancing himself from his teeny-bopper early years. He has definitely changed my opinion of him with his last three movies (Gangs of New York, Catch Me If You Can, and The Aviator). I realize he might have been good in earlier movies (though don't you dare say "Basketball Diaries," which sucked), but I haven't seen them all.
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A new Scorsese classic
ragingbull198025 January 2005
Martin Scorsese's "heroes" usually aren't heroes at all; rather they end up being only one of the unbalanced characters through whom we see the entire film. Mean Streets, Taxi Driver, Raging Bull, The Last Temptation, Goodfellas, Casino, Bringing out the Dead and Gangs of New York--who would want to really be any of these guys? Even Jesus has issues.

In the Aviator, Scorsese has made a slicker, more Hollywood friendly film, and it will likely be rewarded with Oscars for his more accessible approach. But the themes still remain: a troubled misfit attempts to shape the world to meet his wants, but the world is not his opponent--once again, it is his demons.

There will be people who criticize this film because it's not as "Scorseseque" as most of his work, but come on, guys, not much has changed really. The editing and special effects might diminish the grittiness that permeates most of this great director's work, but Martin Scorsese is at his peak as a storyteller here; the film is three hours long but I didn't even know it until I looked at a clock after exiting the theatre. It feels like it plays in half that time--the movie is a very entertaining masterpiece about one of the most influential and complicated industrialists in American history; the man Howard Hughes was a true visionary, and dare I say in the world of aviation... apparently an artist. But like so many artists, this one is troubled, and DiCaprio plays him very, very well.

I still liked Gangs of New York better, but this is a great movie and if it nabs Scorsese the key Oscars he has never called his own (Best Picture, Best Director) then he can finally fulfill that tiny blank space on his resume. If not, who cares? Scorsese doesn't need an Oscar to prove he's the greatest of all American filmmakers.
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Perhaps the best movie of 2004!
Brogan14 December 2004
Leave it to Martin Scorsese, he is one of the few reliable directors who graces in age, still manages to make outstanding movies. I thought his previous film; GANGS OF NEW YORK was the best film of 2002 (and still stand by that comment). Scorsese who was once known for showing us the gritty realistic world of New York City's "Mean Streets" with the Little Italy thugs (MEAN STREETS), anti-hero loners (TAXI DRIVER), fallen hero (RAGING BULL), bizarre world of Soho (AFTER HOURS), realistic thugs (GOODFELLAS), gangsters controlling Las Vegas (CASINO; it wasn't in NYC, but it still had the similar theme), guilt ridden paramedic (BRINGING OUT THE DEAD), and the war between immigrants (GANGS OF NEW YORK). This is the Scorsese that all of us know about and remember. Yet Scorsese was also responsible for telling us about a single mother in the southwest struggling to survive (ALICE DOESN'T LIVE HERE ANYMORE), the final farewell concert of a fantastic rock/folk group The Band (THE LAST WALTZ), and the story of Jesus Christ (LAST TEMPTATION OF Christ). Now Scorsese has become the storyteller of one of the most enthusiastic and eccentric billionaires of recent years, Howard Hughes.

In THE AVIATOR, Scorsese portrays Howard Hughes (Leonardo DiCaprio) as several different roles: filmmaker, womanizer, entrepreneur, engineer, germ-phobic, and aviator. The film tells about the achievements that Hughes accomplished such as the movies HELL'S ANGELS & THE OUTLAW, the building of an airplane that can fly above 20,000 feet, acquiring TWA and making it a international airline, and the design and building of the largest airplane ever the Hercules (now known as the Spruce Goose). Yet Hughes went through so many conflicts with his business: Pan Am Airline chief Juan Trippe (Alec Baldwin), Maine Senator Ralph Owen Brewster (Alan Alda), Louis B. Mayer (Stanley DeSantis); his romance: Katharine Hepburn (Cate Blanchett), Ava Gardner (Kate Beckinsdale); and himself: paranoia, and obsession compulsion disorder.

THE AVIATOR discusses all of those elements in rich detail, that after watching the movie, you begin to realize the amazing accomplishments that Hughes did. Wonder why the only thing we most remember about Hughes was being a recluse who was afraid of germs. And would like to know more about Howard Hughes and see the films that were discussed in the film.

This isn't a Scorsese film that people want another TAXI DRIVER, GOODFELLAS, CASINO, or RAGING BULL would expect. This is a different kind of Scorsese, one who is telling a story about a man, who is no different that him. A dreamer who dreams big and ignores what his advisors, and partners tell him, then come up with projects with amazing results.

DiCaprio proves that he his under-appreciated actor in this film. While most of the public see him as that goofy kid who shouts, "I'm king of the world!" in TITANIC. Yet most don't realize his talent with such roles as in WHAT'S EATING GILBERT GRAPE and CATCH ME IF YOU CAN. THE AVIATOR shows that DiCaprio is a great actor, giving a realistic portrayal of the eccentric Hughes in some scenes, and a man who cleanses the germs that represent people he dislikes or negative incidents. Blanchett does a amazing job with her performance of Katherine Hepburn with the way her head is tilted back to the pronunciation of words to the snobbish like personality she has when she is around her parents. While Beckinsdale also does a great job playing the very sexy Ava Gardner who has a love/hate relationship with Hughes, a woman who hates him at times, but will help him when he needs help.

The supporting performances by John C. Reily, Ian Holm, Alec Baldwin, Alan Alda, Danny Huston, and Matt Ross are all top rate and also deserve recognition as well.

And Scorsese proves that he one of the best directors of all time with several elements. First the pacing of the story, the film never drags and at running time of 169 mins. it kept my attention on what was going to be happening next. Second, some of the scenes of the film were of complete beauty and wonder. One scene that blew my mind was during the filming of the aerial scenes from HELLS ANGELS which showed how dangerous it was filming the dogfight scenes from that film, seventy years before computer generated images would replace that technique. Third, the acting by the actors was top notch and very convincing. Finally, the story of Howard Hughes himself was unique and original and I think there will never be another person like Howard Hughes.

This has been quite a year of movies: COLLATERAL, SIDEWAYS, KILL BILL VOL. 2, THE INCREDIBLES, RAY, A VERY LONG ENGAGEMENT, THE TERMINAL, FAHRENHEIT 9/11, BOURNE SUPREMENCY, OCEANS TWELVE, CRIMINAL, SPIDER-MAN 2, MEAN GIRLS, HARRY POTTER & PRISONER OF AZKABAN, and SPANGLISH were all films that were amazing and all were among my favorite films of this year (yet I still need to see LIFE AQUATIC and FINDING NEVERLAND). But I think it will be hard to beat THE AVIATOR, for it's story, characters, and epic feel.

The Academy has snubbed Scorsese for 30 years; they did the same thing for Roman Polanski until THE PIANIST. Now I think its time for the Academy to acknowledge Scorsese for his craft and technique. While some people will believe that Scorsese should have won his Oscar back in 1980 with RAGING BULL, or in 1990 with GOODFELLAS, I feel that it's time to recognize Scorsese for something! And THE AVIATOR is one film that I think that most Scorsese devotees (like myself) feel is worthy of recognition. Plus, if this movie wins both Best Director and Best Picture, then two of my favorite directors will win Oscars (Scorsese and Michael Mann, who produced AVIATOR).

So that is why I am rooting and hoping that THE AVIATOR will collect Oscar gold. The best movie of the year, and don't miss it!!!!! ***** (Out of five)
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mem_ory25 December 2004
Warning: Spoilers
The Aviator like the Spruce Goose itself only takes flight briefly and is an overall disappointment. The thrills to be had are in the flight sequences. However they are done digitally and in the editor's suite. Scorsese's hand is rather flat on the throttle and the script plays too broadly. You get the feeling that Scorsese himself is not quite in love with his subject, Howard Hughes. The scenes that should work such as Hughes caressing the rivets of a plane are seen through a cynical eye. DiCaprio portray's Hughes as a nut and sociopath. Maybe he was in real life but it's as if they want you to not like this guy. Not exactly the right approach to making an audience friendly picture. We also have a poor sense of continuity. After suffering massive wounds from a plane crash, Howard Hughes heals up amazingly well and quickly. Totally glanced over is the fact that he became addicted to morphine after this event. If 75% of your body is burned and your heart has been dislocated to the other side of your chest cavity I think you're going to care more about killing the pain instead of washing your hands.

I can't help but think that James Cameron would of been a more apt choice to make this film. I believe his sensibilities are more in line with Howard Hughes. He would of portrayed Hughes as more of a Ayn Rand type character than a tragically flawed anti-hero.
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Extremely Boring
Vash200130 December 2004
Warning: Spoilers
I went to see this movie with very high expectations. It was supposed to be a certain Best Picture nominee that would finally get Scorcese his Best Director Oscar, and possibly the best picture Oscar too. Given the history of the Oscars, it will not surprise me if Scorcese wins the Oscar for his not so good effort. IMO neither the movie nor the direction lives upto the hype. Half way through the movie, I was bored to death. When it finally ended, with DiCaprio saying the same sentence 20+ times (it was quite irritating), I heaved a sigh of relief. There is too much detail, not enough pace, and the screenplay is nothing to write home about. There is some good acting, which may be the only saving grace of this movie. Dicaprio brings out the eccentricity of the main character quite well, but the story never really takes off. One good scene in the movie is when the Howard Hughes character has to defend himself. Leo carried that scene well. Overall, a HUGE disappointment.
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Gorgeous but emotionally empty
tadeo3826 December 2004
A curious film in so many ways; it is a truly gorgeous film, great cinematography and editing to keep it as tight as possible but there is something missing at his very heart! It will obviously win Oscars, this is just the niche that the Academy voters are looking for, and I'll bet that it makes a pretty penny....but it sort of reminds me of "The Last Emperor" which I have never felt deserved a "Best Picture" Oscar in that there is minimal involvement asked of the viewer and a feeling of Who cares??? I disagree that it is a "must-see" depending on how much time and energy is available to you, the viewer. I found the other major's of 2004 to be much more involving, particularly "Finding Neverland", Spanglish, Sideways and Closer. As James Berardinelli reports, Scorcese would seem to have lost something since "Goodfellows".
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Like the Platte River ...Too long...Too Shallow
brusso3 January 2005
 The Aviator is about aviation innovator Howard Hughes. It is about womanizer Howard Hughes. It is about psychopath Howard Hughes. Any one of these would have made an interesting film. Altogether they resulted in a shallow portrayal over too long a period of time to retain my interest. In short, I was bored.

Let's look at the love affairs. The bit about Jean Harlow was so minuscule it could easily have been cut with no harm to the biography. The same could be said about the scenes with Faith Domergue. The Ava Gardner story could have been interesting, but it was too fragmented to be of interest. Only the Kate Hepburn story was truly compelling, mostly because of the exceptional performance of Cate Blanchett. Still, even this episode – which could have been developed into a two-hour story – left me wanting.

Then, there's the psycho-pathological element. Who was his mother and why did she treat him like she did? We don't know. Was this a sexually abusive relationship? The opening bath scene leaned in that direction, but we don't know. If Hughes was so horrendously phobic, why did the phobia take so long to emerge and wreck his life? We don't know. It's a shame the writer and director did not reveal the answers to these questions. Perhaps no one knows the answers; we just know he was psychopathic.

Finally, let's talk about aviation. I love airplanes. I could relate to Hughes' passion. I could thrill with his gallivanting around the skies – racing, filming, testing, wooing Hepburn. I didn't even mind the fact that nothing in the air was real – just computer generated images. I wanted to stand by his side when he faced off with greedy Juan Trippe and sleazy Senator Owen Brewster. I wanted to fight with him and fight for him. But even this was shallowly presented. The evidence is readily apparent: major characters, identified by labels as if this were a documentary, enter the story without the viewer being prepared for who they are, why they are there, and why we should care about them. I just couldn't get hooked. I didn't care.

Interesting note: when I was first out of college, I worked as a technical writer with a man who was nearly at the end of his career. He had been with Hughes Aircraft and had the dubious honor, along with three or four others, of pulling Hughes from one of his many plane crashes. My fellow employee told tales of Hughes and of the rescue for which Howard ensured him of employment for as long as he wanted to stay on.

Sadly, The Aviator added nothing to my knowledge of Howard Hughes and, although it had great potential to tell a fabulous story about one of aviation's most celebrated innovators, it failed.
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Grissom662 April 2008
The story of aviation pioneer Howard Hughes (Leonardo DiCaprio), the eccentric billionaire industrialist and Hollywood film mogul, famous for romancing some of the world's most beautiful women. The drama recounts the years of his life from the late 1920s through the 1940s, an epoch when Hughes was directing and producing Hollywood movies and test flying innovative aircrafts he designed and created.

It also follows his descent into madness as his compulsiveness for cleanliness gives way to frequent outbursts and ticks. He turns away those closest to him, confining himself and emerging only when absolutely necessary. The Aviator 9/10
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A pointless movie that dragged on...
katie-352 January 2005
Warning: Spoilers
I can never see Leonardo DiCaprio as a man. He will always look like a scrawny, little guy. He just does not come across as an adult in this film any more than he did in Titanic. Young girls like him, which is why Titanic made so much money since all those young girls went to see him over and over. I wonder if it will happen here. Leo, please keep your clothes on. It only makes you look more like a kid. The cinematography is wonderful and very controlled as the film progresses. The Howard Hughes character is not delved into enough in order for the viewer to see the mental breakdown of a very eccentric man. Three hours and his disturbing actions did not seem credible. He is crazed and living behind locked doors. Then he is cleaned up and very lucid before all the flash bulbs at the Senate hearings. For someone who was in such poor emotional condition, it was difficult to buy the transformation. Cate Blanchette was wonderful as Hepburn. She nailed that role with her own twist to it. As an Aussie playing the varied roles she has chosen, she always seems to rise to each. I hope one day she will be recognized for her great talent. Ian Holmes is always good and made a wonderful professor. Kate Bechinsale did a fine piece tender, yet tough, acting the part of Ava Gardner. She didn't mimic the iconic late star, but took on the role in her own tempered manner. Scorcese is a wonderful filmmaker whom I greatly admire. However, this attempt at a very long film led nowhere. I kept wanting the film to give me more depth of the Hughes character and felt squirmy in my seat. Possibly the miscasting of DiCaprio was part of the problem, but the back story and the slow progression into mental illness needed to be explored more deeply. Again, I can't say enough about the cinematography. I do hope that brings in an Oscar.
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Dark and dour; a saga, not an epic...
moonspinner5525 December 2004
Martin Scorsese's Howard Hughes biography flies high and mighty when it does indeed fly--down on the ground, it's aloof, cold, a little slow, but you get the impression that Scorsese doesn't notice. He's an extremely self-satisfied filmmaker and doesn't bother to pick up the pace. He should have. When Hughes begins to deteriorate, the movie gets bogged down in the same red-tinged psychological muddle that doomed the entire midsection of "New York, New York". The period flavor--as with "New York"--is careful but disappointing, and Leonardo DiCaprio is serviceable in the lead but nothing grander, nothing more than workman-like (his little boy voice strains throughout, cussing like a kid playing grown-up; his height doesn't detract however, and his weight and demeanor seem very correct). Cate Blanchett playing Katharine Hepburn is too fast at the beginning, but finds a more appropriate style; unfortunately, there's too much of her, and Scorsese's lighting fast editing fails him in this instance. We don't need to see Hepburn arriving at the movie studio, turning the lights on and meeting a handsome admirer. Whose story is this? The sequence around the Hepburn family dinner table is, however, a smash, and Blanchett is lovely in her period wardrobe. I didn't believe for a second the impersonations of Jean Harlow (very minor) or Ava Gardner (a big problem) ...and what happened to the "Outlaw" controversy? It seems to take place off-screen. The editing also slips in the final third, allowing scenes to run on too long, letting shots get ahead of themselves (as with DiCaprio behind the wheel of the Hercules, seeming to turn the plane too early). The music is great, the cinematography terrific, the thing LOOKS good. But it's a great big lump of expensive coal. ** from ****
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A bitter disappointment
eye327 December 2004
Warning: Spoilers
I loved it for the acting, especially Cate Blanchett (qv) as Katherine Hepburn (qv), but otherwise I was left wondering if it was ever going to develop a story line on his personal life. There's absolutely no mention that Hughes gave Hepburn the money to buy the movie rights to the Broadway hit "The Philadelphia Story," which turned her career around for good. Blanchett may well be the first actor or actress to win an Oscar for playing another Oscar winner, and would well deserve it.

Kate Beckinsale (qv) as Ava Gardner (qv) is as radiant as the real thing but if this part of Hughes' life wasn't in the movie as written I would never have missed it.

Leonardo DiCaprio (qv) fills the screen like he always does, but not even his star quality and his talent don't make up for the movies meanderings from the plot. His gives and takes with Alan Alda (qv) as Senator Harry Reid are well enough, but it's like watching a rehearsal instead of a finished product. Alec Baldwin (qv) as Juan Trippe, the boss at Pan AM, seems to be grateful to phone in his character from GlenGarry Glen Ross (1992) _(qv)_.

The airplane scenes, whether flying, building or even just talking technicals, held me in place. In fact, these were the only scenes which did. A movie shouldn't let me wander. This one did, and I hold Martin Scorsese (qv) responsible. He should listen to his film editors much more as well as his writers.
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The Concurrent Rise and Fall of a Legend
DaveDiggler15 January 2008
Leonardo DiCaprio is one of the best actors of his generation. Martin Scorsese is the greatest director of all time. They have made a formidable pair over the years and sometimes I think DiCaprio is miscast for certain roles ("Gangs of New York," "The Departed"), but "The Aviator" has DiCaprio's name all over it. This is one of the best, if not thee best, acting performances I have seen since Robert De Niro in "Raging Bull." Both characters have their similarities as well. Jake La Motta had his own inner demons which lead to his paranoia about his wife which ultimately lead to the destruction of the people around him and Howard Hughes' demons are brought front and center as we see where it all starts when he's given a bath at an age where the young Howard should be more than capable to cleaning himself. His mother tells him about all the diseases and makes him spell the word "quarantine." In this unsettling opening scene we see where his delusions start.

DiCaprio can be hilarious at times and heartbreaking at others. Scorsese and DiCaprio do an incredible job of taking us from the marvel of his genius and innovation in aviation to the destruction of his OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder). It starts off slow with a few hints here and there that something isn't quite right with Howard Hughes, but gradually we see more and more and more and more and more until we finally see some horrifying acts from Hughes as he locks himself in his projection room playing reels of his films "The Outlaw" and "Hell's Angels" over and over and over and over again. These films have been completed and released, but Hughes is still watching. Still looking for these imperfections. He's stuck. He's stuck in his mind and he's stuck in his life and he's stuck in his projection room.

There are some very good scenes with Cate Blanchett, who plays Katharine Hepburn, and quite wonderfully I might add, and by wonderfully I mean terribly annoying, loud, and excessive. The damn woman does not shut up. Howard says, "I could always hear you." She replies, "That's 'cause I'm so Goddamn loud." Yes you are miss Hepburn, yes you are. They have some great scenes together, but the best one comes when Howard meets her entire family and it's quite possibly the greatest dinner sequence I have ever seen. It's beautifully shot as we watch Howard Hughes struggle to keep up with all the conversations going on at the same time due to his deafness. They are extremely rude people and they bully him and then he finally snaps and we feel so good for him. Katherine Hepburn is a completely different person with her family than alone with Howard. Howard accuses her of acting in her real life and wonders if she even knows anymore. This leads to the destruction of their relationship and leads to more paranoia from Howard Hughes as he burns all the cloths that she had infected. He calls Noah Dietrich (John C. Reilly) to tell him to buy him some cloths and then quickly changes the conversation and starts asking him about recorders and asks if he's recording his conversation. This is where Howard Hughes and his paranoia starts to take off.

The best part of the film comes in the third act, during a simple and what some may think as a rather uneventful Congressional Hearing. It's two people cross examining each other, what could be so great about that? You would have to see to understand it. Alan Alda is the villain as Senator, Ralph Brewster, who is trying to pass a CAB Bill through the Senate that will put a monopoly on the air ways giving Pan Am sole possession of the sky. Juan Trippe (Alec Baldwin) had his people create the bill on their behalf to shut out the competition from Hughes' growing airway company- Trans World America- which is expanding across the Atlantic Ocean into Europe. Brewster and Trippe team up to investigate Hughes as they try to embarrass him in public by revealing all his secrets. They order the FBI to raid Hughes' house over and over again causing Howard Hughes to shut himself off from outsiders like nothing you have ever seen before. They threaten to take Hughes down by investigating what he did with the 50 million he received from the government to build plans that ultimately didn't fly during the war. Howard Hughes can simply sell over Trans World America to Juan Trippe and everything will be forgotten to hide him of the public embarrassment. Alda is spectacular and so crafty, always looking for a way to the top, or always getting his way with a smile on his face, just rubbing his arrogance in the face of everybody. During the Congressional Hearings the film reaches it's climax. This is where Hughes tries to overcome his extremely paranoid state and go to these Congressional Hearings and fight for his reputation. The battle that ensues between Alda and DiCaprio is incredible to watch. The final sequences brings us triumph. Only then are we brought right back down as we see Howard Hughes has not progressed in the final scene. It's a brutal ending it the subtlest of ways. The fact that we seen him at the Congressional Hearings gave us hope that he can somehow recover from his paranoid state; that he conquered his fear. Then, we are shot right back down with the final moments of the film capping off an incredible roller-coaster ride of emotions. The final act of the film is what I thought would undoubtedly give Leonardo DiCaprio his first Oscar, but to my surprise that didn't happen and that's a shame because he is absolutely incredible here. A fan of his or not, you can't deny his greatness in "The Aviator."

One of Scorsese' best.

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Very Long and Drags much of the time
jzorn25 December 2004
I was really looking forward to seeing this movie after all the press and favourable ratings. We saw it on opening day in the Detroit area and found the movie to be just OK. I give it a 4 on the scale of 10. Acting was OK, script was so so. I was expecting much more action I guess. The movie was at least 45 minutes too long IMO, most of the people walking out of the large theatre which was about 3/4 empty felt about the same way based on comments that we overheard. The story seemed to ramble on with no progression, little dramatic tension and then ended at what seemed to be an arbitrary point. It seemed that there wasn't a lot of continuity from scene to scene. In short, given the positive press, it was a disappointment.
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Sorsese and DiCaprio deliver great work here
Red-Barracuda21 December 2016
The Aviator is another dynamic film from Martin Scorsese. He has employed his energetic style to the story of the Hollywood mogul / aviation pioneer Howard Hughes, the result is a fast-paced and entertaining biopic. It's a more restrained effort than Scorsese usually delivers and it's pretty obvious that it was going very much for a PG-13 rating given the very blatant method of including one f-bomb to affect this. So the material, while still showing the darker aspects of the title character, nevertheless whitewashes him considerably too – in real life he seemed to be anti-Semitic and racist, while he also killed someone due to dangerous driving (neither of these two aspects made it into this film). What we do see is still a man with many flaws though with his recklessness, excessive perfectionism, womanising and germ phobia. Leonardo DiCaprio really is excellent in the part it has to be said and shows again just what a skilled actor he really is.

Unusually for a biopic the story begins with Hughes already a millionaire and in the middle of making the World War I fighter-plane epic Hell's Angels. We see the money he threw at this picture and his perfectionist attitude leading to it being a very elongated shoot. Despite the film's huge success, he was never fully accepted by the Hollywood old boy's network and was considered an outsider. It's this aspect that has been used to make a hero of Hughes in this film, a man against the system if you will; even though I am sure the truth was less clear-cut given his massive wealth and more unsavoury character traits. Whatever the case, we see him push the boundaries of acceptability in movies with his violent crime film Scarface (1932) and his racy feature film The Outlaw (1943), we see him design ever more ambitious planes, we hear of him circumnavigating the world, and testing aircraft himself (this includes an expertly filmed sequence where Hughes crashes one of his planes into the middle of a populated area), we witness him founding his own airline TWA and in the process gain powerful business and political enemies which leads to a congressional investigation and finally we see a man suffering from paranoia who becomes a mentally ill recluse.

The story of Hughes life certainly was a dramatic one and Scorsese presents it as such. He even had romances with Katharine Hepburn (played brilliantly by Cate Blanchett) and Ava Gardner (Kate Beckinsale), which adds a glamorous social life to his high profile public achievements. The lush period detail adds a great deal to proceedings with a beautiful look maintained throughout. Scorsese even went so far as to use an old two-strip Technicolor process for the cinematography which leads to the strange moments where we see fields and golf courses replete with blue grass. So, all-in-all, this amounts to another typically well executed, handsome-looking and energetic effort from Scorsese and his first genuinely great collaboration with DiCaprio.
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