As the secret screening was announced that same morning, it was bound to be chaotic getting people into their seats, even with press tickets on hand. I almost gave up after 45 minutes of running around to different locations based on the well-meaning but uninformed advice of festival staff. But finally I asked the right person and voila! I was in.
The good news: the film is entertaining, and the surprise appearance at the Q and A of Ewan McGregor and Michael Fassbender—who joined co-star Gina Carano, director Steven Soderbergh and moderator Joel McHale—made the craziness worthwhile. For a more informative Haywire Q & A, check out our coverage of the Comic-Con panel, which included co-star Channing Tatum. At this session, McHale seemed unprepared, riffing off the top of his head:
All eyes are on the last batch of major year-end movies to be factored into the Oscar zeitgeist. Clint Eastwood's J. Edgar, at least, will play better for the older Academy--many of whom lived through the decades depicted in this ambitious J. Edgar Hoover biopic dominated by Leonardo DiCaprio's moving performance in the title role--than the wider moviegoing public. Eastwood acknowledged this during his intro at Thursday's AFI FEST opening night unveiling at Mann's Chinese, thanking Warner Bros., his home for 41 years, for supporting so many offbeat projects that were not mainstream: "Sometimes they turned out pretty good," he said.
Indeed, Eastwood has delivered a consistent string of quality films, even after his career peaks, the Oscar-winning Mystic River and Million Dollar Baby. Written by Milk's Dustin Lance Black, J. Edgar cross-cuts between the old Hoover, not willing to release his hold on the reins of power after 48 years and eight presidents (many of them afraid of his secret files), and flashbacks to his life from age 19 through his rise to power at the Bureau of Investigation (eventually the FBI). Hoover started out responding vigilantly to terrorist violence and wound up corrupt, paranoid and egomaniacal.
More details and a round-up of early reviews are below.