The film opens in 1927, with Hughes sinking a lot of money into the making of a revolutionary film called Hell's Angels – a First World War story involving a lot of aeroplanes. Hughes, played by Leonardo DiCaprio, goes on to invest heavily in more movies, building aeroplanes and the famous airline TWA and while his business moves seem unorthodox, they prove to be pretty profitable.
The Aviator follows Hughes' life up to the end of the Second World War, and portrays him as a highly successful and charismatic man with a head for business, who is unfortunately psychologically troubled. Despite all his success, Hughes is hounded by his own health, his relationships and the media, making for quite a dark film that is tinged with tragedy.
Cate Blanchett deserves a special mention for her portrayal of Katharine Hepburn, which she prepared for by watching the first fifteen films she ever made and studying her poise and mannerisms. Add to that voice coaching, three red wigs and laboriously hand-painted freckles and you have a very realistic and convincing performance indeed.
The Aviator is not the sort of film I would normally seek out, and I must confess that I don't know that much about the life of Howard Hughes, but I did find the film both enjoyable and interesting.
While there is nothing really wrong with it though, the film is not driven by an extraordinary passion for the subject matter, and has certainly not been attacked with the vigour and enthusiasm that Scorsese became famous for with films like Taxi Driver and Raging Bull.
Once again I am mildly disappointed with the overall result – from any other director a film like this might be considered very good, but for me it's far from classic Scorsese.