During his lifetime, J. Edgar Hoover would rise to be the most powerful man in America. As head of the Federal Bureau of Investigation for nearly 50 years, he would stop at nothing to protect his country. Through eight presidents and three wars, Hoover waged battle against threats both real and perceived, often bending the rules to keep his countrymen safe. His methods were at once ruthless and heroic, with the admiration of the world his most coveted, if ever elusive, prize.
Hoover was a man who placed great value on secrets-particularly those of others--and was not afraid to use that information to exert authority over the leading figures in the nation. Understanding that knowledge is power and fear poses opportunity, he used both to gain unprecedented influence and to build a reputation that was both formidable and untouchable. He was as guarded in his private life as he was in his public one, allowing only a small and protective inner circle into his confidence. His closest colleague, Clyde Tolson, was also his constant companion. His secretary, Helen Gandy, who was perhaps most privy to Hoover's designs, remained loyal to the end...and beyond. Only Hoover's mother, who served as his inspiration and his conscience, would leave him, her passing truly crushing to the son who forever sought her love and approval.
As seen through the eyes of Hoover himself, J. Edgar explores the personal and public life and relationships of a man who could distort the truth as easily as he upheld it during a life devoted to his own idea of justice, often swayed by the darker side of power.
J. Edgar: The Most Powerful Man in the World
The complicated life of J. Edgar Hoover is thoughtfully and quietly distilled into a feature film by director Clint Eastwood. J. Edgar
is a movie, therefore, that’s free of fuss. Told mainly through an older Hoover reciting back his life story, it’s a conventional structure that allows Eastwood to cherry-pick some of the most interesting moments from the contrversial life of the man who was the first director of the modern day FBI.
J. Edgar, as a movie, is sometimes a little too cautious for its own good, sidestepping one or two areas of its subject’s life. But in the title role, Leonardo DiCaprio is in excellent form. Sometimes weighed down by ageing make-up, but always able to hold the screen, it’s his central performance that’s the compelling reason to watch the movie. Judi Dench has less to work with as his mother, although Armie Hammer fares better as Clyde Tolson, the man who may or may not have been Hoover’s lover.
The disc release does dig into Hoover a little bit more, with a feature exploring the complexity of the man. At the very least, it serves as a starting point to find out more about one of the most fascinating people in modern American history. The film and disc certainly scratch the surface on him, and there’s plenty here to like and admire. They do leave you with a lot more to discover, though… --Jon Foster