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The Aviator

The AviatorHoward Hughes led a fascinating
  double life as a brilliant aviation pioneer
  and successful film producer, colourfully
  demonstrated by the film The Aviator
  that follows his life during the period
  from the late Twenties through to 1947
...”

ASTONISHINGLY TALENTED AND INTELLIGENT, the wealthy Howard Hughes (empathetically played by the superb Leonardo DiCaprio) is not content to just sit back and let the millions of dollars gush in from his oil company.

Passionate about aviation and fascinated by film, at the end of the silent movie era in 1927 Hughes throws himself into a project that combines both interests and meticulously crafts Hell's Angels. A perfectionist to the last, he watches the reels over and over again before re-shooting the film to improve its visual appearance and to take advantage of the latest sound innovation.

With his financial adviser Noah Deitrich (John C Reilly), cautioning the phenomenal cost of the project, Hughes amasses the largest private air force in the entire world for Hell's Angels and deploys an unheard-of twenty-four cameras in order to shoot the movie from every conceivable angle — even approaching an unyielding and dismissive Louis B Mayer (Stanley DeSantis) for the loan of two more while dining at the famous Coconut Grove.

It is the attention to detail that marks Howard Hughes as one of the greatest aviators. If a plane didn't do what he wanted on film, he would spend whatever it took to make it work — there was nothing money could not buy. The film took two years to complete and cost Hughes $4.7 million. A staggering amount for 1927.

Suffering deafness and uncomfortable among crowds, Hughes nevertheless escorted the sultry Jean Harlow (Gwen Stefani) to the premier of Hell's Angels and plans to film a western, The Outlaw, with Jane Russell notoriously sizzling sexily throughout.

By now Hughes is dating the inimitable Katherine Hepburn (fabulously portrayed by Academy Award-winner Cate Blanchett) and they are very much an item, but he does not care for her dysfunctional family.

In 1935, he test flies the H-1 Racer but crashes dramatically in a beet field; 'Fastest man on the planet,' he casually informs Hepburn when he returns home. Three years later, he flies around the world in just four days — shattering the previous record by three days! But he has upset Katherine by continually being seen escorting a succession of Hollywood beauties and she and Hughes eventually break up after she abruptly announces that she has fallen in love with another man.

Throwing his lot in with Jack Frye (Danny Huston) of TWA, Hughes dreams of building an enormous aeroplane capable of flying above the weather to make travel more comfortable for passengers. And he does not care what he has to do in order to achieve that dream. At that time the only trans-Atlantic flights were exclusively Pan-Am's, whose President Juan Trippe (Alec Baldwin at his most wicked) goes head-to-head with Hughes.

While Pan-Am attempts to destroy Hughes' TWA, he secures contracts with the military for a spy plane and a massive troop transport — the Hercules flying boat — dubbed the 'Spruce Goose'. But his dreams of seeing his own trans-Altantic aircraft in the air seem about to be shattered as he takes on Pan-Am and the United States government in a dispute that could see him lose everything.

All his life, Hughes has suffered from the obsessive-compulsive disorder that is to manifest itself in a neurosis that takes him to the edge of insanity. In the early days he was thought of as a perfectionist, disregarding the cost to ensure everything he creates is flawless, but in later life his OCD became more severe, sadly making him increasing unstable.

The Aviator was — deservedly — nominated for eleven Academy Awards and won five, one of which was won by Cate Blanchett. This brilliant film, 'absotively' (absolutely and positively) absorbing, also features: Kate Beckinsale as Ava Gardner; Alan Alda as Senator Brewster; Ian Holm as Professor Fitz; Jude Law as Errol Flynn; Adam Scott as Johnny Meyer; Kelli Garner as Faith Demarque; and Frances Conroy as Mrs Hepburn, Katherine's mother.

Director of Photography is Robert Richardson ASC; the beautiful music is by Howard Shore; Written by John Logan; Executive Producers are: Leonardo DiCaprio, Chris Brigham, Rick Yorn, Harvey Weinstein, Bob Weinstein, Rick Schwartz and Colin Cotter; Produced by: Michael Mann, Sandy Climan, Graham King and Charles Evans Jr; Directed by Martin Scorsese.

Martin Scorsese's superb The Aviator is released on Blu-ray on 19 September 2011. Certificate: 12 | Catalogue Number: MIROPTD2118 | RRP: £24.99.

"The Aviator… brilliant… absotively absorbing"
Maggie Woods, MotorBar