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“Hugo” – Movie Review

Click on image to view trailer

Director:  Martin Scorsese

Writer:  John Logan

Stars:  Asa Butterfield, Chloe Grace Moretz, Ben Kingsley, Sacha Baron Cohen

Though not your typical Martin Scorsese film, Hugo is a film that could only be made by a person who loves movies as much as Martin Scorsese.  It is a film directed by a movie buff for movie buffs and those that appreciate film history.  Put simply, this is not a children’s film.

The film starts slowly and builds its world.  And what a beautiful world it is; fully realized and all-encompassing.  It is a world of clockworks, the dawn of the industrial age, when everything mechanical is beautiful and full of wonder.  In this world, between the walls separating the outside from the in, you are in the home of Hugo (Asa Butterfield); where the gears move, pipes steam, and you can see everything through the vents and the clock faces.

Hugo is the story of Hugo’s quest to fix his father’s last project, and in doing so finds himself and a family.  When we first meet Hugo, he is living in the old employee quarters of the train station.  From his vantage point behind clock faces and vents, he can see and be everywhere.  He is caught one afternoon by George, the Toy Merchant (Ben Kingsley), trying to steal a wind-up mouse–not for the toy itself, but the clockworks inside.  To avoid being given over to the Station Inspector (Sacha Baron Cohen), Hugo agrees to give the Toy Merchant everything in his pockets, including his father’s notebook.  The notebook becomes the catalyst for all that happens next.

The notebook is one of the last remnants from his father (Jude Law) who was killed in a fire.  In it are the notes regarding an automaton his father was repairing.  But the Toy Merchant also recognizes the automaton and refuses to return the notebook.  What follows next is not only an adventure to regain the notebook and repair the automaton, but the story of how two damaged souls were healed.

Also along the way you are treated to the early history of French silent films and privy to the secrets of old-time filmcraft.  You will view classic scenes from Buster Keaton movies, The Great Train Robbery, and George Melies films–such as Le Voyage Dans La Lune (A Trip to the Moon).

The acting is great throughout.  Asa Butterfield–great last name–carries the film well.  Ben Kingsley is spot-on as the despondent Toy Merchant with a secret past, and Chloe Grace Moretz (Isabelle) holds her own as the Toy Merchant’s god-daughter who befriends Hugo.  The remaining supporting cast is equally great and well cast.

The editing of the film for the most part is good, but the film does feel overlong at points.  The scenes between Madame Emilie (Frances de la Tour) and Monsieur Frick (Richard Griffiths) as two shop keepers working in the station–though sweet–add nothing to the story.  But this is a minor complaint; one that I only thought of after the film had long been over.

Overall this film has charm, and it touched me.  You are truly taken to a time and place.  This is by far Martin Scorsese’s most beautiful looking film and most likely the most beautiful film of the year.

Grade:  A-

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“Hugo” – Trailer

Click on image to view trailer

The first thing you need to know about this film is that it is based on a graphic novel by Brian Selznick:  The Invention of Hugo Cabret.  The graphics novel is a hard cover, 550 pages, a fantasy, almost all visual, and with almost no words.  Put simply, not the bases for your typical Martin Scorsese film.

After watching the trailer on Friday I can happily say I am very excited for this film.  It is a daring choice for Scorsese, and puts him out of his comfort level.  The last time he veered from his norm was Age of Innocence, which was not exactly his best work.

As for the graphic novel the film is based on, you can click on the book cover below to learn more about it from the Amazon website.  When the book was first published I almost bought a copy.  I was very intrigued by such a large and well illustrated book with almost no words.  But if we learned anything from Where the Wild Things Are is that you don’t need a lot of words to make a good story.  I can’t tell you why I didn’t buy it then–maybe my backlog of unread things was too large–but I might get it now.  Actually, I’ll probably order it now to make sure I get the original cover and not the movie inspired one.

Click on the image to get more information about the book