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J. Edgar (Blu-ray Review)

Leonardo DiCaprio has returned to the big screen and now to the high definition screen with Clint Eastwood directing the biopic of one J. Edgar Hoover. J. Edgar aims to show us a side of one of the most controversial and powerful figures in U.S/World History. On board for the ride is Oscar winning screenwriter Dustin Lance Black (Milk) handling screenwriting duties for J. Edgar. It’s a powerhouse of talent in front and behind the cameras – let us see if J. Edgar sinks or swims on Blu-ray . 

 

Film

J. Edgar is the story of controversial figurehead and director of the FBI – J. Edgar Hoover. The film traces his origins as an agent for the Department of Justice and follows his path on or around 1919 during the botched assassination attempt of A. Mitchell Palmer who was Hoover’s boss at the DOJ and acting Attorney General of the United States. The seeds were planted early on that day as Hoover arrived at the scene of the crime and noticed the clumsiness of the investigation. Investigators and witness trampling evidence, picking through debris, etc. It’s as if J. Edgar Hoover had an epiphany right then and there. Soon thereafter, Palmer  names him head of a new anti-radical division and Hoover goes to work on “cataloging” suspected radicals.

Hoover lives with his mother (Judi Dench) and shares the news of his promotion and future work with her and she is so proud. Once he returns to the DOJ building he meets Helen Gandy (Naomi Watts) who has come on board as a secretary. Hoover is instantly smitten  by her and shows her the Library of Congress catalog. Smooth, dude. Hey, at least he went for it, right? After going in for a smooch, Gandy quickly rejects his advances and neutralizes the situation. Hoover is taken aback by her courage, convictions, and work ethic that he asks her to be his personal secretary. She would be his personal secretary until his death many years later.

Later on, Clyde Tolson (Armie Hammer) enters the picture as a lawyer who is introduced to J. Edgar Hoover, who by this time is now acting director of the newly formed Bureau of Investigation. There’s a twinkle in both their eyes upon meeting, but it remains cordial. Tolson hands Hoover his business card and walks away. Soon thereafter Hoover and Ms. Gandy begin reviewing applicants who want to become agents of this newly formed force under Hoover’s direction and he curiously asks her if Tolson’s application is there in the stacks. She quickly says that it is and he quickly hires him.

J. Edgar is structured kind of weird, just like this review. Ha. There are three main characters, maybe a fourth one, that the whole film revolves around with major events sprinkled in throughout the rest of it to balance it out. We are introduced to J. Edgar Hoover, his mother, then we’re introduced to Helen Gandy, and finally Clyde Tolson. They are what hold the film together, because the film does shift back and forth depicting true events that happened during the early stages of FBI (before it was even called the FBI). Some of these events focus on the Lindberg Kidnapping and John Dillinger, then shift back to their personal lives which by all accounts are pretty mundane. Well, technically we don’t know anything about Gandy or Tolson. Yes, it’s about Hoover, and we learn subtle things about him. He has an OCD condition, stutters when nervous, and he’s either gay…or not. I pause, because the film keeps just about everything you see very abstract. That’s what was most frustrating about the film. As I watched it play out there were times that I wondered what it would look like if Oliver Stone had directed J. Edgar. It would have been epic like JFK or Nixon were!

J. Edgar is a neat little story about someone that the U.S. public hardly knew about, but could only speculate on. It wasn’t even fair speculation, it was smut speculation on whether the guy was gay or liked to dress in women’s clothing. The film never goes into detail. It’s too nice of a film. Yes, I know I may sound like I’m bashing it, but I’m really not. It served its purpose as an an entertaining feature and I’m a big Leonardo DiCaprio and Clint Eastwood fan, so my expectations were set very high. It’s vanilla.

Video

J. Edgar is presented in 1080 -2.40:1- widescreen. J. Edgar is technically a period piece from the early part of last century, so this lends itself very well to the color palette chosen for the film. If you’re familiar with Clint Eastwood’s The Changeling then you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about. The colors are very cool and subdued and with exception to a couple of outdoor scenes at the racetrack will never go beyond a “pastel” brightness. Scenes of interiors are only illuminated by natural and low light giving Hoover’s dwellings (at work and home) a more sinister touch. Grain is there, but the overall image is a tad soft which counters the grain level. Black levels are deep, sharpness levels are adequate, and flesh tones look natural.

Audio

J. Edgar is presented in DTS-HD MA 5.1. One would not think that a lossless track could carry any weight around in a drama film like J. Edgar, and they would be wrong. Dialogue levels are impeccable as they crisp and sharp. During scenes of the early riots and occasional shootouts the sound quality gets in there and handles those sounds with precision. The sound quality only drops when it comes to the ambient surround sounds. They’re very inconsistent and only seem to pop out when something big or loud is happening onscreen. That’s my only compliant, but other than that, the audio on J. Edgar is tip-top.

Extras

Yes, we were doing so well, but now this is where it goes downhill. J. Edgar contains just ONE extra and it is a short featurette that sheds light on the real J. Edgar Hoover by the cast and crew. It’s typical talking head stuff. In addition to the featurette there’s a DVD and Ultraviolet Digital Copy included. Yeah, no.

 

  • J. Edgar: The Most Powerful Man in the World

 

Summary

J. Edgar is by no means a bad or horrible film. If anything, its faults lie in that for as much information that is shown, we still don’t know that much about him. I can accept that in real life, but not in a dramatization, because it’s supposed to be a DRAMATIZATION! That’s my only nitpick. On the more positive side of things – the video and audio specifications are above the line, but the one paltry special feature is a slap in the face. That drags the overall score way down. If you’re interested or curious about J. Edgar Hoover then there are better materials to go through, but if you want to see some assured directing and better acting then J. Edgar on Blu-ray will do just right.

 

 

 

Order J. Edgar on Blu-ray!

 

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Gerard Iribe is a writer/reviewer for Why So Blu?. He has also reviewed for other sites like DVD Talk, Project-Blu, and CHUD, but Why So Blu? is where the heart is. You can follow his incoherency on Twitter: @giribe

5 Responses to “J. Edgar (Blu-ray Review)”


  1. Aaron Neuwirth

    Yeah, pretty much agree with this. It’s a decent film and DiCaprio is giving it his all, but the film is way to plain, especially given the talent involved.

  2. Gregg

    I really enjoyed this movie, but understand from its speed and delivery that it didn’t light the fire of many out there. Also, you point out an interesting bit that after all is said and done, we still don’t know a lot about him. I really can’t disagree with that. The fact that he was a 33rd Degree Mason is monumental though it’s never mentioned in the movie…and that’s just one of many pieces of info left out.

  3. Gerard Iribe

    Gregg, I forgot to mention that in my review, and that fact was completely omitted from the final picture. We have no deleted scenes to tell us otherwise.

  4. Brian White

    I can’t comment intelligently because I have no seen this, just does;t look like it would light my fire. Hopefully project X will tonight, Hugo tomorrow and John Carter on Thursday!

  5. Sean Ferguson

    I’m a fan of Clint Eastwood’s movies so I’m looking forward to this.