But nothing in J. Edgar seems to happen by accident. The story, at all times, seems to go precisely where you want it to go. It's told in a split between the last days of Hoover's life and a recounting of his career in the Department of Justice. All the transitions are smooth, and everyone hits their mark.
We might fault writer Dustin Lance Black (Milk, Big Love) for perhaps too religiously hitting the mark here, but there's no accusing him of mixed messages: Hoover's cautions to Congress, his cautions to those he trusts, and his voiceover cautions seemingly addressed to all the viewers warn us of the suppressive forces that affected him personally, not America. Throughout his life, he had to dissemble about the way he talked and the way he felt, and perhaps this led to the way in which he often lied more easily than he told the truth.
There's little action here, so director Clint Eastwood (Mystic River, Million Dollar Baby) broadly exploits color to get the periodicity of the piece across, from a black and white too gorgeous for authenticity, to a subtle tint of green as we watch the twilight of the characters' lives. We also get a treat rare among these biographical pieces: there are moments where Hoover is very awkward, and the impetus to turn away during these moments, as well-played by DiCaprio as they are written, is as strong as it has ever been with past masters of the form like The Office.
Much has been made of the heavy use of makeup to greatly age the characters during the later scenes of the film. I personally have never found a film or show aging with makeup to be very effective, but J. Edgar is no worse here than any others. It is not at all embarrassing, though, and in DiCaprio's case seems to go beyond previous efforts in the field, but it's Armie Hammer (The Social Network), as Hoover's lifelong romantic friend Clyde Tolson, who really shines in his aged scenes. He alternates between accepting Hoover's flaws, and still trying to change him for the better, and his final scene brings the film to a fine spiritual close, if not a literal one. The Blu-ray includes a documentary on j edgar is the special feature, and dvd and Ultraviolet digital copy.