...a voluminous, and possibly definitive, study one of the big screen’s paragons of brawn and masculinity ... He often comes off as a pawn for cagey directors but a thinking pawn all the same, with a sensitive B.S. detector making up the deficiencies of top-shelf mental acumen ... Eliot’s portrait of Heston’s life does take some turns off the set, and we catch glimpses of a fascinating political figure, so far as actors go, one considerably more protean than we now think ... But Eliot’s clear preference is the world of film, putting us right there with Heston as he mulls scripts, trains, launches himself bodily and mentally — both so far as each aspect of him went — into epics, biopics, big pictures, small pictures, more or less equally. Heston is at its best here.
Eliot is right that no life can be fairly reduced to a single moment. But Icon fails to deliver the kind of complex portrait that intro promises. The book’s subject is a hugely important figure, but Eliot mostly avoids the things that make Heston historically notable. And what he does cover, he offers a surface-level look, brushing past contradictions and offering irrelevant tidbits instead of meaningful insights ... This lack of conflict would be tricky for any writer, but Eliot too obviously stretches for drama, trying to make points land in the moment at the expense of a more cohesive take ... Eliot shows little editorial judgment, giving something revealing, like Heston’s civil rights activism, the same attention and space as his obscure movies.
Charlton Heston is a welcome event if only because it restores a sense of balance, offering some overdue appreciation to an actor whose belief system mitigated against a full appreciation of his worth. The man that emerges from Mr. Eliot’s book is earnest, hard-working and unfailingly decent.