J. Edgar, directed by Clint Eastwood and starring Leonardo DiCaprio, is the story of one of the most hated and admired man in American History; J. Edgar Hoover, first director of the FBI. In his long career, Hoover brought forensic science into the courthouse, cracked cases that most thought would be unsolvable. He also blackmailed presidents, invaded the private life of civil rights leaders, and ignored actual criminal enterprises like the Mafia in favor of attacking his enemies in the press.
The movie follows Hoover throughout his career, switching from his latter years with the department in the sixties and seventies and his starting years in the twenties and the thirties. The transition between these periods was sometimes awkward; the sixties and seventies especially are compressed, skipping from JFK’s assassination to Richard Nixon’s presidency without a mention of the Johnson years, only to jump back 4 years to Dr. King winning the Nobel Peace prize, and then, without warning, jumping to Hoovers death in 1972.
DiCaprio carries the movie, though I wish Eastwood had considered using CGI instead of traditional makeup to make an old Hoover. DiCaprio just doesn’t look old enough. But DiCaprio captures the character of an isolated man deep in the grasp of paranoia.
Overall, J. Edgar is a fine biopic, but suffers from horrible pacing and a general lack of purpose. It doesn’t add anything new to what we know about J. Edgar Hoover, it’s not a genre-changer. It’s a History Channel Special with a million-dollar budget. It’s good, but it’s boring.