Hugo (4 1/2 out 5 Stars)
Directed by: Martin Scorsese (Raging Bull, Taxi Driver, Goodfellas, The Departed)
Written by: John Logan (The Aviator, Gladiator)
Starring: Asa Butterfield, Ben Kinglsey, Chloe Grace Moretz, Sascha Baron Cohen, and Christopher Lee
Imagine a world where renowned director Martin Scorsese directs a beautifully moving family film. Looking at the four films mentioned above, and knowing his other films Hugo is a different pace for the director. The result is one of the most beautifully moving stories about a boy who loses his father works in the clocks at a train station in Paris, and embarks on one of the greatest adventures, and these things all connect with the birth of cinema. There is not much more to ask for.
Hugo starts with our young hero, Hugo Cabret (Asa Butterfield) wandering through clocks winding them, and making sure they work properly. In the train station he sneaks up to the toy shop and attempts to steal a wind-up toy. In his effort to steal the toy he is caught by the shop owner (Ben Kingsley) and his notebook and things are confiscated by the shop owner. This interaction sets up the whole premise of the film where Hugo meets a young girl; her name is Isabelle (Chloe Grace Moretz). Isabelle is the goddaughter to the shop owner , whom she lovingly refers to him as Papa George. As two young children come together they embark on adventure that connects an automaton that Hugo's father was working with Papa George. The result is an adventure into the birth of cinema.
Martin Scorsese has moved away from the traditional style of film he directs and he transports viewers into a beautiful world. As a viewer you can tell that Scorsese loves films, and that this film was a passion project for him. The film centers around the birth of film making. Papa George is in fact Georges Méliès, one of most well renowned film makers from the late 1890s through the early 1900's. Méliès saw film making as process, and art form that could transport viewers into a magical adventure. Méliès was a magicians prior to being a director, actor etc. and used the magic of editing to create over 500 films. Scorsese's passion for film and the subject matter is beautifully woven into his direction, and this is his best work since 1990's Goodfellas.
The acting in the film is good. Asa Butterfield does a wonderful job as Hugo; he plays, the young boy lost, seeking something bigger so well! Chloe Grace Moretz is one the most talented younger actresses working today she can kick ass and swear in films like Kick-Ass and then create a much softer lyrical character like Isabelle. There are a few side vignettes throughout this film which center around some wonderful performances from Christopher Lee, Sacha Baron Cohen, Emily Mortimer, Frances de la Tour and Richard Griffiths. While this vignettes were sometimes distracting, or out place (my only complaint) the acting was great so there were rarely times I felt they took away from the pace of the film. The main culprit was the one note performance by Sascha Baron Cohen, who while funny was sometimes too cartoonish. Then there's Ben Kinglsey who played Méliès; his performance is so beautiful and displays a great range showing the role passion played in defining cinema.
The film's star in my book is the beauty captured in the editing, cinematography, art direction, and every other technical aspect. This is a spectacularly beautifully shot film. This is also a film that must be seen in 3-D. I hate the way 3-D has taken over films today, but this film uses the 3-D element better than any film I have ever seen to date. I felt as though the 3-D makes this film whole and helps to capture the beauty of the story, and the nostalgia of the beginning of film making.
2011 has been the year of nostalgia. The Artist is nostalgic for the era of silent films, Midnight in Paris is nostalgic for different eras of writing and creativity in France, and Hugo is nostalgic for the birth of the cinema. Hugo did a wonderful job of transporting me back in time to an era about love and passion. Méliès loved making films, and Scorsese perpetuates that emotional experience in this film.