Human history has great heroes, great villains and a few people in between. John Edgar Hoover, FBI's father, is one of those obscure and shadowy characters who stands between good and evil. But the most paradoxical is that we know very little about him, despite his towering position and the sheer amount of stories, rumors and theories surrounding him.
Clint Eastwood is directed this movie, and the mere fact of making a film about such a vague and amorphous man is a show of courage. On the other hand, it's clearly necessary to take as facts some of the rumors surrounding him. Otherwise, there would be no material to make the film. For example, it's true that Hoover earned a reputation for being homosexual, but the truth is that, against what the film suggests, this fame has never been proven. The film becomes more accurate when it comes to his career, the way he created and developed the FBI, how he promoted forensic science etc. One detail that particularly delighted me was seeing Hoover dictate his memories in a blistering, exaggerated way. With this, the film reveals more than truth... it reveals us what may have been the essence of the personality of a man who has always sought to control what others thought or knew. If knowledge means power, Hoover always made sure no one knew him, or knew only what he wanted. About the script and the story told I just felt some difficulty with the constant flashbacks and flash-forwards. I feel that this hindered my perception of time and the order of events. But that was a minor problem, at least for me.
Leo DiCaprio brilliantly secured the lead role. He is an excellent actor and, once again, offered us an excellent performance of a very complicated and ambiguous character. I must also point out his excellent characterization and costume design... this allowed him to play an older, fatter, and grumpier Hoover with the same quality he employed in the ambitious, hard-working boy. Naomi Watts and Armie Hammer were very good at supporting characters, even though Hammer was so ostensibly homosexual that I would have preferred to see him adopting a more contained and ambiguous posture in this regard, leaving the audience to think what they wanted. Equally impeccable and wonderful, Judy Dench gives us a great performance in a character that appears few times, but it marks our mind whenever it appears.
For half a century, Hoover was an unassailable man who knew the most sordid secrets of the American elite and did not hesitate to use them to challenge anyone who opposed him. Despite this, he lived his professional and personal life in an extremely discreet way, away from the spotlight, like an office bureaucrat. His life was lived under the motto "knowing is power". That is why he is so vague, Machiavellian and fascinating. And this film, instead of capturing an elusive "truth," perfectly captured the enigmatic and ambiguous side of the man behind the FBI director's desk.