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December 11, 2011

Isabelle: We could get into trouble!
Hugo Cabret: That’s how you know it’s an adventure.

Martin Scorsese’s Hugo is an uninhabited passionate tribute to the majestic art of classic cinema, which is a remarkable experience on the visual side. In fact, this is the most visually resonant film of the year, and quite possibly the best 3D film. Scorsese is most likely the only director aside from James Cameron who knows how to correctly utilize 3D technology, rather than splattering it on a film to raise admission prices. My major issues with this film tread from the idea that some scenes were incorrectly utilized, solely to add more convolution to an already cluttered story. Having said that, Hugo is a fun film to behold.

Newcomer Asa Butterfield is Hugo Cabret, a 12-year-old orphan who has been living confined in the walls of a Paris train station in 1930. Hugo has been living alone ever since his father (Jude Law) died in a fire accident. Hugo was living in the walls of the train station with his Uncle Claude (Ray Winstone), until a few months ago, his Uncle departed suddenly and has not returned. To get all the food and supplies needed to survive, Hugo goes around the train station as a thief, stealing whatever he needs to survive, while simultaneously avoiding the station inspector (Sacha Baron Cohen), who captures free-running orphans and send them away. 

When Hugo is caught one day stealing small parts from a toy shop operator George Méliès (Ben Kingsley), who then steals Hugo’s notebook, that contains mysterious drawings of a robot, who incidentally is located in the wall Hugo stays in. The notebook holds the key to getting the robot to work correctly, and with the help of George’s daughter Isabelle (Chloë Grace Moretz), Hugo goes on an adventure (which Isabelle professes she has never been in) to find the notebook, figure out the secret of the robot, and find the key that will solve all of this commotion. As these two crazy kids become more and more deep into this investigation, they find out a major secret about her godfather, and the magic of cinema. 

The end of the year seems to be the perfect time for nostalgic films; we’ve been handed The Muppets, Midnight in Paris, and Super 8, and now Hugo! Hugo is by far the most difficult film to describe, because it is so incredibly mixed in my mind. On one hand, I really enjoyed it; the set design, the dialogue, and most importantly: the originality. Given that it was based on the book The Invention of Hugo Cabret, director Martin Scorsese has done a fantastic job utilizing it as his own story, and creating a universe of his own, which in a nutshell, is the train station. 

A big part of the film takes part in the train station, where our protagonist resides, in the wall… sounds cozy! Scorsese’s little creation is indubitably wonderful and embracing it makes it ten times better. The fact that every detail is handled with absolute perfection, makes this even better. To be completely honest, if it were not for the astounding visuals, the film would not be as good as it is now. In fact, I am going on streak here, but I am proud to say that Hugo is the best made 3D film, ever. Yes, Avatar does not feature 3D quite like this. 

At this juncture, I could care less for the adult cast. Newcomer 12-year-old Asa Butterfield and Chloë Grace Moretz (Kick-Ass) are quaint, charming, adorable, and feature some of the most powerful acting from the standpoint of a younger crowd. I already knew Moretz would be good, after her ass-kicking performance in Kick-Ass, and her breakthrough drama performance in last years Let Me In, and Asa Butterfield, man, was that talented. Not only the fact that he was a child, but the fact that 3/4 of the script was him, shows his incredible acting chops. Bravo. 

Don’t get me wrong, the older cast were also stunning, and that’s what I’ll be discussing now. Ben Kingsley portrays the well-renowned legend Georges Méliès, who was a French filmmaker and was pretty much responsible for the invention of technical and special effects, and created one of the first (and most retro) films ever made, entitled Le Voyage dans la Lune (translation: A Trip to the Moon). This guy is a legend in cinema, and who better to play him then Ben Kingsley? Kingsley’s portrayal is near-flawless, and ultimately brilliant.

Now, onto my dissection of the rest of the cast, which I enjoyed more than expected! Well, the only one I was a bit cautious about was Sacha Baron Cohen, who is known well for his comedic roles in films such as Borat, Bruno, and who could forget Talladega Nights? To my surprise, he was quite good… no, he was FANTASTIC. While he simultaneously goes back and forth from a serious guard to mischievous and dumbfounded, it’s incredibly entertaining to view. His character also has a side-story with his love-interest, a florist who works in the train station, played by Emily Mortimer. Christopher Lee was robbed of screen time, and has a small role as the librarian. All-in-all, a well-rounded cast. 

As much as I enjoy endlessly ranting about my love for a film, there is usually always a major flaw that negatively impede my final score, and it looks like that is what is going to occur for Hugo. The pacing was beyond bizarre. Despite it being a remarkable experience, did the pacing have to be so undermining? It feels as if a few of the scenes were added to make it the standard “Scorsese running-time” (usually two-three hours). Another aspect that bugged me was the lack of character development pertaining to Isabelle’s mother (Helen McCrory). See, that would have been a nice way to fill in some screen time, but instead we get some nonsensical bore-filled scenes filled with utter pointlessness. This will negatively affect my final grade on this film, which is a shame because I’m known to automatically give Scorsese an easy five-stars. Despite all that, Hugo is still a film to behold. 

So if I had to give you a recommendation, I would most likely persuade you to see this in the theaters. If you are sitting on a plane or whatnot watching this on your laptop or MP3 device, there isn’t much to be impressed by, but if you want the full Hugo experience, go to your local theater, and make sure to see this in 3D (trust me, it is worth the extra cost). Otherwise, you can wait until this film is released on Blu-ray 3D, but let me tell you, the experience won’t be as remarkable. 

Hugo = 3.5 out of 5
One Comment leave one →
  1. December 13, 2011 3:17 pm

    you are right. seeing it in 3D is a must! the cast was decent but the visuals…amazing!

    nice review!

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