Despite having been very impressed by him in Romeo and Juliet and Catch Me If You Can, Leonardo DiCaprio has never really had much appeal for me as a star. His heartthrob status has got in the way of my appreciation of him. (I still haven’t seen Titanic, and have no particular plans to.) But The Aviator has changed all that. His performance as the obsessively driven Howard Hughes is, quite simply, spectacular. It’s a demanding role, calling for a convincing portrayal of both fierce determination and drive and introverted neuroticism, and DiCaprio pulls it off like a master. Scratch that, with this role he shows that he is a master.
But even with this performance, DiCaprio doesn’t own the film: Cate Blanchett races off with an amazing piece of character acting as she totally becomes Katherine Hepburn. The supporting cast, from small parts such as Jude Law’s Errol Flynn, to major antagonists like Alec Baldwin’s Juan Trippe, is stellar. (Definitely a candidate for the award for best use of the word “fuck” in a serious screenplay*.) Even at a challenging three hours long, the film is never less than totally engrossing. A masterpiece.