2012-01-20 L’Osservatore Romano
The dark side of the force: Star Wars in fact could be cited, in reference to John Edgar Hoover, founder and for a half century feared director of Federal Bureau of Investigation. But most likely, Clint Eastwood, dedicating this merciless film to showing weakness, vice and contradiction, wishes to present the ambiguous face of America.
In J. Edgar the over-eighty-year-old director, who many times exemplifies the toughest side of his country, today distances himself. The ruthless and violent Inspector Callaghan is light years away from Hoover, and from his way of thinking and administering of justice and of using power with recourse to lies, blackmail, petty deception, and unlawfulness to enforce his own reasons, right or wrong. In his work Eastwood has recorded every aspect of doing justice at any cost, even opening cracks of forgiveness, however he seems to appreciate a straightforward 44 magnum more than the a cowardly secret file.
Hoover, in possession of an ever more widespread and out of control power, does not only leap forward with investigative activity against criminality, a praiseworthy thing in itself, he also uses this power to manipulate politics in order to keep even the President in check. Convinced of being on the right side, he fights a personal battle against not only delinquents but also against those who constitute a threat to the country and to himself – communists, radicals, civil rights activists – a reference to how he himself is a victim of the plan he constructed.
It is this Hoover to which Leonardo DiCaprio gives life, through an excellent performance, following the suggestions of a script which chooses to tell not an asceptic biography, but that which is written by Hoover himself, saturated with lies, self-glorification and omissions; all shortcomings which the screenplay makes gradually clear until they are exposed at the end, denying any ideal justification or the excuse of good faith.
In J. Edgar Eastwood confirms himself as a quality director, creating a classic film in his own style, with dark tones, direct intentions, and without consoling or absolving loopholes. However the film does not make the most of the crossroads of psychological introspection and the public sphere. Nevertheless the intention to candidly recount the dark side of America, bulwark of democracy and beacon of freedom.