Hugo (2011)

December 11, 2011 By Mike B
Movie Review

What Worked?

Martin Scorsese taking on a PG Adventure film doesn’t sound too appetizing to cinema lovers, as he’s known for heavy dramas and crime films,  but never doubt a legendary director, especially when he steps outside his comfort zone. Scorsese’s latest film is Hugo, a story about an orphan who lives within the walls of a train station, trying to break the mystery about an automaton and his recently deceased father. The film is set in 1930s Paris, and the first scene pulls you in like a first crush, captivating you with its beauty and marvel.

Many have complained about the hype of films done in 3D, calling it a gimmick and a waste of ticket money, but Scorsese doesn’t mess around, as he elevates it from a gimmick to a true enhancement of experiencing the story. The cinematography is incredibly beautiful, presenting a stoically majestic railway station and the quaint surrounding towns. Scorsese weaves in jaw-dropping beauty throughout the film, from an amazing tracking shot of the train station to unworldly, robotic dreams, and the inner-workings of the clockwork behind the walls. The 3D truly immerses you into the picture, as it works wonderfully with the passionate cameras on the move. Even for those that despise 3D films, this film will have them in awe at least a few times. Is it the best utilization of 3D in a film so far? Yes.

Asa Butterfield, from the Boy in the Striped Pajamas, plays Hugo, an orphan that works within the walls of a train station. He  recently lost his father, and is all alone trying to fix an automaton that he used to work on with his father, trying to figure out the mystery of the machine. Butterfield gives a heartfelt performance, with his relentless drive to fix the automaton to find some closure in his father’s death. He emits a sense of childhood innocence that’s admirable, and the pain of loss that’s relative, making for a stellar performance. Chloe Moretz, playing Hugo’s friend Isabelle, also has that innocence rarely seen in children on the screen. Moretz, as Isabelle, adds on another solid performance to her career, playing a curious book-worm, looking for an adventure in the real world. Butterfield and Moretz have a charming chemistry, as they understand each others loneliness and need of purpose in life.

The two stand-out adult performances come from Ben Kingsley and Sacha Baron Cohen. Kingsley plays Papa George, a grumpy toy-maker that keeps his past under wraps. Papa George is the God-father of Isabelle, and is very rigid in the way he lives his life, until his past is unraveled. Cohen plays the quirky Station Inspector, keeping things in order like a overly proud hall monitor. Cohen plays the role very well, grabbing many of the laughs, especially when he pursues a woman he admires.

Hugo is truly a love letter to the ideal of film-making: capturing dreams on celluloid. Beyond that, it gives us an optimistic look of having a purpose in life, as well as it brings us into the viewpoint of innocence that most of us have lost or don’t remember. Hugo is a dazzling triumph, as well as it is a dreamy tribute to the magic of cinema.

Potential Drawbacks:

This is anything but a children’s film, even though it may look like a fantasy film in its advertisements. In fact, some children may probably get bored watching the film.

The dialogue at times seems a bit weak or expository, but it may be done on purpose for children in the audience. Some have complained that there are too many side-characters with “no purpose” in the film, but they are simply there to make the world of Hugo feel tangible.

Lastly, the run-time might be a little too long for some, as it goes a bit over 2 hours, with some thinking there’s not enough story for 2 hours.

Film Recommendations:

The Majestic
Son of Rambow
Be Kind Rewind

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