Aviator, The (UK - BD RB)
Marcus's next Miramax Blu-ray review takes him into the skies with Leo...
Martin Scorsese and Leonardo DiCaprio bring us the story of Howard Hughes, a young man with an inherited fortune and a drive to push the boundaries. Making movie epics that pushed cinema in to bigger and better directions, pushing aviation to places that made modern air travel as popular as it is today and loving his fair share of iconic movie stars, Hughes seems to have it all and he’s bringing the rest of the world along with him. Behind closed doors however Howard Hughes has issues. A fear of disease and germs and an ever increasing case of obsessive-compulsive disorder. Here we get a glimpse into the man’s life - and what a life it was.
I’m the worst audience member when it comes to biopics. I’m too damn picky y’see. If the story is too thinly spread over the subject’s life I feel we’re not getting enough of the details. If only a small key portion of the subjects life is the focus then I get annoyed we don’t see enough after 'the event'. However Martin Scorsese is the master at the biopic and his study of Howard Hughes is another masterclass in how to do it right.
Scorsese and DiCaprio’s collaborations have so far always been thoroughly entertaining but I have to say I sometimes find Leo the weak link in the films. Don’t get me wrong I think the guy is brilliant on screen but somehow I can’t see beyond the performance with him sometimes but I have to say that isn’t the case here at all. DiCaprio’s performance is by far one of his finest in my opinion. In a career that is already full of brave, well thought out roles, there’s something about Leo’s depiction of Hughes that shows that it’s a bit of a passion project for him. Little nuisances and shifts in his outward persona are subtle and frankly brilliant and it’s clear that DiCaprio knows exactly what he’s out to do here. Thanks to the performance and of course Scorsese’s visuals we feel all of Hughes’s hangs up. We feel his passion, his fears, his psychological issues and that never ending drive of his. Everything is possible for this guy no matter his colleagues getting in his way, his financial parameters or the out of date sensibilities of the world around him. There’s something sort of addictive about watching Hughes at work and his life is depicted in a thoroughly entertaining way that most biopics usually only touch upon before slipping into the same old clichés, which The Aviator never does.
For me The Aviator captures the sadness of Hughes’s condition perfectly. His slow withdrawal from the world around him is heartbreaking given the man’s achievements and his larger than life personality. Even though we get the ever increasing hints of his issues with the world around him it doesn’t make his later years any less easy to deal with. Scorsese once again provides a perfect structure to his subject’s life. The pace of the story and the elements we’re shown feel part of the whole and nothing is there without a reason. Everything adds weight to the Howard Hughes’s development as a character in a film and even though we do hit the historical landmarks along the way, such as the movies he made and the aviation achievements he develops it all feels dramatic and without it feeling like a tick in the “to cover” box when it comes to doing a film of a person life.
The Aviator really is a film I’ve always been fond of. I love the world Scorsese has made here and DiCaprio is the perfect lead for the project. The Aviator feels like it means a lot to everyone involved and somehow that bleeds into the film making it all the better but what of the Blu-ray treatment? Does this Miramax disc suffer the same fate as the rest of the releases have so far. Hold your breath folks. Here we go...
For the first hour, all of The Aviator is really only in two tones: turquoise blue and red clay. This stylistic choice makes for some odd visuals from golf courses with zero green in them to clubs that feel almost like they are underwater. Of course this boosts reds and every single cast member seem to have piercing blue eyes. It does seem a bit odd at first and has always felt like something is wrong with the picture as opposed to a stylistic choice that makes sense but once that first hour is over the transfer here really comes to life.
Leaving behind the two-tones, the second half of the movie is a collection of vibrant screen popping colours than suddenly take this Blu-ray into beautiful places. Those missing greens of the first half suddenly feel perfect and alive, different coloured suits and costumes really bring the world to life and a little more modern feeling and little glimpse of reds glow off of the screen wherever they are dotted about. Blacks are deep and give the shadowed areas of the frame look very good indeed. The image is grain free, has a very strong warmth to the colours on show and the more the film progresses the better it seems to get.
As for sharpness and detail, these many areas are a marked improvement on the DVD but I wouldn’t say they as strong as other more impressive catalogue releases. Skin tones are great but small details aren’t as strong as you’d expect. Cate Blanchett’s freckles are there but not really defined. Facial textures aren’t all consistently impressive, the same goes for clothing textures and even though some scenes fare better than others and generally the entire transfer looks great as a whole, there are still certain elements I’d consider a little soft.
Well the DTS-HD Master Audio track is a strong one but there’s a big but in there. It’s all very frontal. Dialogues, atmospherics, score everything, it all sits in front channels and this is really felt in the larger aeroplane sequences. Same can be said for the musical numbers from the Wainwright family. The busy clubs never feel full and lively but instead quite confined despite there still being an atmosphere to the audio. Also bass levels vary from boosting the action to not really playing a part in the more heated arguments and they feel missed. That said as I mentioned the track is still strong for the most part and the loud elements are impressive despite the lack of full on rear channel support. This is a tough one to call as a general wrap up. I felt the lack of rear channels but I don’t feel it affected the film in any way. The track works but just not by the rules we’re used to when deeming a good audio presentation. This worked for me but I was aware of what potentially could have made it better.
The commentary track features Martin Scorsese as well as elements from Michael Mann and editor Thelma Schoonmaker. Scorsese is passionate and if anything makes me like the movie more than I already did. There are quite a few quiet moments in the second half of the film with only comments for certain moments but even so this is a fantastic track and a thorough insight into the film.
The single deleted scene (01:39 SD) is an extension to the scene where Howard gives Ava a diamond necklace.
‘Life Without Limits: The Making of The Aviator’ (23:02 SD) is a straightforward making of but that doesn’t take away its goodness. Cast and crew discuss project with great admiration and the backstory to getting the film made is very interesting indeed.
‘The Role of Howard Hughes in Aviation History’ (14:31 SD) is more of a typical look at Howard Hughes' life. Real pilots and aviators telling stories of the man and the how important Hughes was to the development of aviation.
‘Modern Marvels: Howard Hughes, a History Channel Documentary’ (43:45 SD) is a bit too cool for its own good but it features plenty of great details and old video footage and for those looking for more history on Hughes this is the perfect place to start.
‘The Affliction of Howard Hughes: Obsessive Compulsive Disorder’ (14:06 SD) gives a short insight into the undiagnosed condition at the time that Hughes manifested the symptoms. How it would have effected his life and the complexities of his character because of it.
‘OCD Panel Discussion with Leonardo DiCaprio, Martin Scorsese and Howard Hughes' widow Terry Moore’ (14:53 SD) is a audience based discussion shot in 2004 all about OCD. Seeing Leo and Marty on this panel is a thoroughly interesting thing to watch. Their passion about getting the portrayal of the condition is brilliant and Leo’s insight into how he got that off of the screenplay page and onto the screen shows the guy's approach to his work very nicely.
‘Constructing the Aviator: The Work of Dante Ferretti’ (05:56 SD) features the production designer's work on the film and in the short time offers up a bit of Ferretti’s career and his work on The Aviator. ‘Costuming The Aviator: The Work of Sandy Powell’ (03:35 SD) is much the same approach but focuses on the costumes and the same came be said for ‘The Age of Glamour: The Hair and Makeup of The Aviator’ (08:08 SD).
‘Scoring the Aviator: The Work of Howard Shore’ (07:14 SD) shows the composer at work and his approach to the formulating the score and ‘The Wainwright Family, Loudon, Rufus and Martha’ (05:07 SD) gives us a bit of overview of the talented musical family and their involvement in the film. It’s all Loudon doing the talking and nothing from the kids but it's all good stuff.
Finally! One of these Miramax Blu-ray releases delivers. The visuals here are fantastic and none of the issues on the last three Miramax catalogue titles I reviewed rear their ugly heads. The audio is slightly constricted but nothing that ruins the enjoyment of the film itself. The extras are full of interesting things to fill out our knowledge of the film and Howard Hughes himself (though there’s nothing new that isn’t available on previous releases) and I have to say, every time I see The Aviator, the more it establishes itself as one of my favorite Martin Scorsese films. I really do love this movie and it's good to see a good treatment of it here.
* Note: The below images are taken from the Blu-ray release and resized for the page. Full-resolution captures are available by clicking individual images, but due to .jpg compression they are not necessarily representative of the quality of the transfer.
Review by Marcus Doidge
Suitable only for persons of 12 years and over
Release Date: 19th September 2011
Disc Type: Blu-ray Disc
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 English, DTS 5.1 German, English Audio Desciption Service
Subtitles: English, English for the Hearing Impaired, German
Extras: Filmmaker Commentary, Deleted Scene: Howard Tells Ava About His CarAccident, A Life Without Limits: The Making Of The Aviator, The Role of Howard Hughes, A 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, Constructing The Aviator: The Work of Dante Ferretti, Costuming The Aviator: The Work of Sandy Powell, The Age of Glamour: The Hair and Makeup Of The Aviator, Scoring The Aviator: The Work of Howard Shore, The Wainwright Family – Loudon, Rufus and Martha
Easter Egg: No
Director: Martin Scorsese
Cast: Leonardo Dicaprio, Kate Blanchett, Alec Baldwin, John C. Reilly
Length: 170 minutes
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