Clint Eastwood films the important phases in the life of FBI director J Edgar Hoover in this drama which intertwines actual events with the director's and scriptwriter's interpretation of what might have transpired in Hoover's mind. The movie covers only a few events in the life of Hoover which has significance in creation of the bureau and also gradual increase in authority & power. The movie also brings out instances where Hoover came under the radar of many presidents he has served under and how he overcame their resistance. In addition, the movie also sheds light on Hoover's closeness to his mother and sexuality. The movie revolves around J Edgar Hoover(Leonardo DiCaprio), his number two man Clyde Tolson(Arnie Hammer), his secretary Helen Gandy(Naomi Watts) and his mother Anna Marie(Judi Dench).
Although the movie is long, it is an interesting watch for two reasons. The first is the non-linear format the director employs to tell us the story. The movie opens up when Hoover is old and then moves back & forth in time to tell us about the man's past. So, you have an inflexible Hoover to start with and as the movie progresses, the audience sees how he reached that stage. This works for building the drama and to keep the audience in suspense. The second is the performance of Leonardo DiCaprio. We all know he is young. So, how he transforms into an aged overweight Hoover with makeup and acting is remarkable. As a young man, Leonardo's Hoover shows the passion and energy that is instrumental in creating the institution he is famous for. As an aged Hoover, Leonardo shows the perseverance despite the failing health and arrogance to do things his way when the world thinks otherwise.
On the flip side, there are only a handful of events covered regarding the birth and growth of an important organization. If it was not for the constant change of scenario from present to past and back, the entire movie would have fallen apart. In addition, though Clint touches the subject of sexuality of Hoover, he plays it safe without divulging too much details.
This is a serious and long movie. If you are looking for entertainment, look elsewhere. But if you are looking for performances, go for this one.