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Feature
Leonardo DiCaprio (Inception, Blood Diamond) stars as J. Edgar Hoover, head of the Federal Bureau of Investigation for nearly 50 years. Hoover was feared, admired, reviled and revered, a man who could distort the truth as easily as he upheld it. His methods were at once ruthless and heroic, with the admiration of the world his most coveted prize. But behind closed doors, he held secrets that would have destroyed his image, his career and his life. Oscar Winner Clint Eastwood (Gran Torino, Million Dollar Baby, Unforgiven) directs an all-star cast including Naomi Watts (21 Grams), Armie Hammer (The Social Network) and Oscar Winner Judi Dench (Shakespeare in Love) as Hoover’s overprotective mother.

J. Edgar amounts to a tale of two films--one a decent biopic and the other a wandering, misguided effort, but both featuring a strong performance from Leonardo DiCaprio in the title role. The narrative structure of the film is built around Hoover dictating his memoirs to various young F.B.I. agents, interlacing the then present day to Hoover's early years with the bureau up until the timelines intersect later on. The evolution and formation of the modern F.B.I., the war against gangsters and organized crime in the 1930s, the investigations of subversives and radicals and the bureau's involvement in the Lindbergh baby kidnapping are all subjects the picture takes on, and because these are more or less well documented events it's these earlier recollections that prove to be the film's strongest and most interesting points.

The chronicling of Hoover's later years and his relationship with Clyde Tolson (Armie Hammer), however, are a detriment that the picture can't recover from. Screenwriter Dustin Lance Black's stance on Hoover's rumored homosexuality and his relationship with Tolson is made perfectly clear, but relies on so much conjecture that the film becomes more speculative fiction than biography, and it doesn't help matters any that the further the screenplay diverges from factual events the less interesting it becomes. In all fairness most biographies tend to use a certain amount of dramatic license for a variety of reasons, but the overly secretive nature of Hoover and the lack of hard facts doesn't do the screenplay any favors. The later in life episodes also involve the heavy use of makeup to age the actors with varying degrees of success, a problem compounded when the picture jumps time periods and back again so often. While DiCaprio's is decent and believable for the most part, at the other end of the spectrum is Armie Hammer's which looks as if he's wearing a badly applied mask at times. It's disappointing that the bad outweighs the good here, but the main reason to see J. Edgar is for Leonardo DiCaprio's performance, which if in a better film might have gotten him substantially more best acting nominations this past awards season than what he ultimately received.

Video
Warner Home Video's 2.40:1, 1080p, AVC encoded video transfer of J. Edgar on Blu-ray is excellent, featuring very strong black levels and fine detail throughout while it conveys the intentions of Director Clint Eastwood and cinematographer Tom Stern's darkness drenched and subdued color palette. I didn't notice anything in the way of artifacting, aliasing, edge enhancement or any other blemish that would take away from enjoyment of the movie. Not surprising for a newly released theatrical film on home video, the source used is free of any anomalies such as scratches or debris that might pop up on older titles. Overall this is an excellent presentation on Blu-ray.

Audio
Warner Home Video's audio presentation of the feature is equal to the task of the video with a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track that is often subdued but steps up the the plate with nice use of the LFE and surround channels when the appropriate times come. Dialogue is always easily understood coming from the center channel even during scenes featuring overlapping dialogue and more action oriented set pieces throughout, and I couldn't detect any technical issues such as popping, crackling or sound drop outs. Overall this is an excellent audio track on Blu-ray.

Extras
J. Edgar on Blu-ray contains one solitary extra, the 18-minute, high definition featurette entitled "J. Edgar: The Most Powerful Man in the World", which features contributions from Director Clint Eastwood, screenwriter Dustin Lance Black, stars Leonardo DiCaprio, Armie Hammer, and Naomi Watts and producer Brian Grazer among others. The runtime may seem brief--and it is--but there's a lot of information packed tightly within on Hoover's career and personal life as well as the making of the picture. The two-disc set also includes an UltraViolet digital copy and standard definition DVD version of the feature.

Overall
Ultimately J. Edgar is bolstered to the level of other mid-tier biopic films such as Oliver Stone's Nixon largely on the strength of Leonardo DiCaprio's performance in the lead role, but it's definitely one of director Clint Eastwood's lesser pictures. Warner Home Video's audio and video presentations are near perfect, but the disc is sorely lacking in the area of special features, especially given the historical nature of the the film. Overall this one's worth a rental for fans of DiCaprio, but I can't justify a purchase since I don't see myself settling in to watch it again anytime soon.

* 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.

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J. Edgar - Trailer


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