|Leonardo DiCaprio as FBI director J. Edgar Hoover.|
|Photo shows Hoover at about 22 years old.|
But in truth, I found Hoover -- at least the younger one I wrote about in my book -- to be oddly sympathetic. Hoover did not step into the world as an evil villain. To a great extent, this side of him was shaped by events and forces that engulfed him during his lifetime, especially his younger formative years. This is not to make excuses for Hoover's very long record on the dark side, but simply dismissing him as a cartoon villain and cross-dresser misses the deeper lessons.
Hoover came to work at the Justice Department in 1917 as a eager, bright young man ready to impress his superiors and save the country. Within four short years, he had risen to become deputy director of the Bureau of Investigation and had already played a lead role in the Palmer Raids, one of the most eggregious civil liberties abuses in US history. This transformation -- from bright young man to hardened bureaucrat --fascinated me, especially since, to my eye, post-9/11 America seemed to be a period not unlike Hoover's own formative years during the 1919-1920 Red Scare. It is a core theme of my own book Young J. Edgar, and, based on the trailer, it also seems to be at the heart of the new film.
I have been following the Eastwood-DiCaprio project for months through news reports and Washington gossip. I was impressed early on by two things--
I fully expect to have my own list of nit-picks and criticisms once I see the entire film in November. But for now, based on the trailer, I like what I see.