Screening Room – J. EDGAR

(KTSF by Sean Au)

Faced with potential threats to political stability in the country in the 1920′s,  U.S. Attorney  A Mitchell Palmer set up the Bureau of Investigation with 24 year old J. Edgar Hoover (Leonardo DiCaprio) at the helm. This department would later become the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Those under investigation were mostly civil rights leaders and communist sympathizers among many politicians. What the FBI learned about them were used against them in the name of national security.

J. Edgar paid emphasis on the study of forensics to solve crimes, but also carried out surveillance of many politicians as a bargaining chip to solidify his own power. His private life, however, was one shrouded in mystery. Much was known about his living with his mother until her death. The movie also implied that he had a special relationship with his right hand man, Clyde Tolson (Armie Hammer), with whom he was practically inseparable; a relationship that did not have a name in its days.

Despite being a biopic, Clint Eastwood’s take on FBI history offers a glimpse into a very crisp and unattractive world, and does not satisfy the viewer’s curiosity of knowing more about J. Edgar and his motivations behind his actions. It does not even allow a chance for J. Edgar to be likable or relatable, coming across only as a pretty sad figure who despite commanding so much power, was not able to act on his personal desire for happiness.

A very glaring weakness is the lazy script by Dustin Lance Black (MILK) which relies much on J. Edgar’s narration to his staff explaining his actions. In places where you would expect artistic liberty to be taken, the story falls short, ambitious in scale yet timid in its message. The unrealized potential of this film makes it an extremely frustrating watch.

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars.

Video courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures.

(Copyright 2011. KTSF.  All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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