Clint Eastwood, an actor and director who has proven himself to be one of the best filmmakers of today, has had very few duds... but "J. Edgar" might be his most recent failure.
The directing is not particularly bad, and the acting is actually quite superb, but the film falls apart due to the most important element: the script. Written by Dustin Lance Black, Oscar winning screenwriter of "Milk", I had hoped for a film that would be as informative and full of life as his 2008 success. Instead, "J. Edgar" is a very poor snappy collection of flashbacks and highlights of the successes and struggles that Edgar Hoover faced while starting up the FBI.
"Milk", in comparison, has an established ending within the first few moments of the film. You know that Harvey Milk will die of an assassination, so you have a growing sense of tension as you await that horrific moment of martyrdom. In "J. Edgar", the film has no sense of direction at all. The film drags as it lacks a central plot/conflict to drive the film.
The movie spans over 50 years of time, but had the film focused only on the first 10 or 20 years of Edgar's time in the FBI, it would have been much more compelling.
There are great moments in this film, but each of these moments are brief and sporadic. "J. Edgar" focuses to often on the historical context and not enough on the actual person of Edgar Hoover.
With a man who had a secret so scandalous for the time (homosexuality), and yet wanted to appear so masculine and powerful, it is astonishing that Clint Eastwood allowed the script to stay the way it is.
This film reeks of untapped-potential, and though it features a marvelous cast, they and the director cannot save the film from it's horrific script.
My ranking: 2/5 stars