J. Edgar (2011)
I have to admit I never cared to know much more than I thought I already knew about J. Edgar Hoover.
I knew that he was responsible for making the FBI a valued institution, that he irked several presidents (and their staff) because the bureau was not under their jurisdiction, and I knew that the FBI had been successful in bringing some of the top mobsters of the time.
What I didn't know was that the early FBI had any role in stamping out an actual Bolshevik movement in the US. In fact, I didn't know that the Bolsheviks had actually committed crimes and were ever organized in America. I thought they were all talk.
So, all the early days depicted were enlightening.
I knew nothing but a few rumors about Hoover's personal life, and the film helped me put these ideas into context and perspective.
As a high-level government man who often acted autonomously and at the fringes of the law, I had thought he was just another egomaniac, but the film depicts someone who basically martyred himself for an extremely difficult job. The film suggests that he was gay but remained in the closet throughout the duration of his life because if it ever became public knowledge, he would be discredited and disgraced.
So, the man lived a very lonely existence, using his job to substitute for any real private life. If Eastwood is correct in his depiction of Hoover, then the film served as an actual lesson in history. It surprised me that Hoover was intimidated by Nixon's presidency -- because they had both been extreme anti-communists (at least in their rhetoric).
I would have used an older actor for the lead and a second actor for the young Hoover. No matter how much make-up you throw on DiCaprio, it's a devilish thing to try and disguise his uncanny youthfulness. His acting is good, or maybe just passable, I'm not sure. Still, an older actor would have made the role more believable.
Imagine Anthony Hopkins trying the suit on for size.