Leonardo DiCaprio came of age as a star in the late nineties and his collaboration in the first decade of the twenty-first century with Martin Scorsese allowed the director to get his money to make three films together, the second of which is out this week on Blu-ray.

The Aviator is an epic telling of the rich story of the influential businessman and aviator Howard Hughes with his ambition and talents as a man of new ideas perilously coupled with his misplaced trust and his, initially, latent paranoia. His influence and invention in the field of aviation at a time when dominance of the sky was still up in the air and post-war corporate interests began to gather ominously over the United State government makes for a compelling biopic thanks to an intriging central performance and some dizzing visual flights of fancy from Scorsese.

DiCaprio’s performance takes a while to convince, but as his Hughes spirals from boundless, horizon-seeking energy to disgraced recluse and back again DiCaprio disappears into the role and is given every opportunity by Scorsese’s camera and John Logan’s script to drive this film forward. Hughes’ OCD plays a significant part in the proceedings and provides an anchor to the man’s lofty ambitions, though it’s a little too overwrought in some scenes when Scorsese’s trust in the audience leaves him.

The director’s obvious love for Hughes shines through from the first sequence on his making of Hell’s Angels, the astronomically expensive feature film, and the opulent sway of Hollywood in the late twenties and thirties is beautifully rendered in the production design, something which is shown off particularly well with this Blu-ray release. Mention must be made of the flight sequences which are breathaking and, thankfully, free from the weightless CGI fests of similar fare.  Visually this film is something special.

Cate Blanchett accomplishes the near-impossible in crafting a Katherine Hepburn that is at once completely recognisable and yet strikingly unique, something which the film does well to  achieve as the casting of Gwen Stefani, Jude Law and Kate Beckinsale as three of the Hollywood greats flies dangerously close to stunt casting. Alec Baldwin once again proves that in the right hands he can tone down the self parody to, just as he would do a few years later in his work with Scorsese in The Departed, give a solid performance.

This new Blu-ray contains everything from the original DVD release with nothing new to offer those who have already bought the film however the quality of the transfer is wonderful, with the blue rolling hills of Hollywood giving way to the lush green gardens of the Hepburn residence and the scope of the storytelling given a visual polishing to be proud of.

Disc [Rating:3.5/5]

Special Features

  • Commentary with Martin Scorsese
  • A Single deleted scene: Howard Tells Ava About His Car Accident
  • The Making Of The Aviator
  • The Role Of Howard Hughes In Aviation History
  • Modern Marvels: Howard Hughes, an excellent and genuinely useful History Channel Documentary
  • The Affliction Of Howard Hughes: Obsessive Compulsive Disorder
  • OCD Panel Discussion With Leonardo DiCaprio, Martin Scorsese and Howard Hughes’ Widow, Terry Moore
  • Four production documentaries focusing on an individual aspect
  1. Constructing The Aviator: The Work Of Dante Ferretti
  2. Costuming The Aviator: The Work Of Sandy Powell
  3. The Age Of Glamour: The Hair And Makeup Of The Aviator
  4. Scoring The Aviator: The Work Of Howard Shore

A fine collection of extras with some excellent ancilliary documentaries rubbing shoulders with the usual production featurettes.

Extras: [Rating:3/5]