Saturday, January 14, 2012

Review | Hugo

It makes Avatar look Avatarded!

When I heard that Martin Scorsese is making a kids movie, I was thinking of how it would actually contrasts to most of his masterful work that's only suited for adults (Raging Bull, Taxi Driver, Goodfellas, The Departed, Casino). This doesn't contain Robert De Niro or Leonardo Dicaprio who constantly pops up as the lead character. It's neither two and a half hours nor do we get some testosterone fueled violence. So can he nail it? Hugo isn't the first time Scorsese had went into different territory with him previously directing Kundun a movie about the current Dalai Lama. And that was about it.

Set in Paris 1930, Hugo Cabret (Asa Butterfield) is an orphan who often observes what's been happening in the train station beneath the clock towers. The one thing Hugo has in his hand is an automaton which he and his father (Jude Law), a clockmaster, had been trying to fix. The closest they've come was to unlocking its functions through a heart-shaped key before he died. Hugo must find the key and gets into trouble with a misanthropic toy shopkeeper Georges (Ben Kingsley) and a ruthless station Inspector (Sasha Baron Cohen). But the key to the key is Goerges' goddaughter Issabella (Chloe Moretz) who helps him find it and unlock not just the automoton but to everyone who's at stake with Hugo, their secrets.

Martin Scorsese's Hugo is an enthralling film about films and the best kids movie I've seen in ages. Scorsese's love letter to the dawn of cinema succeeds with being a visually delightful film that's lively, nostalgic and very close to heart. Scorsese's use of the 3D is absolutely grand. One single frame isn't blurred, and how every texture comes literally close to the audience and delivers an emotion to the movie. The rich cinematography, art direction and loose editing matches the 3D with flying colors. And to take a note: almost every scene is saturated with shades of blue and copper brown.

This movie they've been seeing flopped

Not only does it recalls to every hardcore film buff of every movie that's remembered for shaping the medium such as George Melile's A Trip to the Moon and his entire filmnography and almost every film featured in the Criterion collection (if I list every film, it will fill up the entire review), but the film's tone and atmosphere reminds me of that in Amelie and most recently Midnight In Paris in which the film's whimsical and the director delivers a playful style of filmmaking you'll be ultimately get involved for the ride. The subtext of the birth of cinema is so fascinating, cinephiles below the level will be more interested in exploring Melile's work and how it has an impact in cinema. When the subtext becomes obvious, Hugo becomes self-aware and it worked.

Hugo also reminds me of Scorsese's classic work because the film is old-school Scorsese taking in crucial elements that made his movies great. The theme of identity is taken upon Hugo as he's trying to find his purpose. His gift though was that he can fix and repair artefacts making up for their routine and eventually build Hugo's connections with other people. A tracking shot of him running through the clock tower is reminiscent to the iconic tracking shot from Goodfellas and the cinematography reminds me of that from The Aviator in which both movies have specific colours shaded in one frame of the movie.

John Logan's multi layered screenplay takes every character to its deepest filled with emotionally resonating performances from a cast both young and old. Asa Butterfield delivers the innocence of a kid, something I've never seen before that is actually deserving, and gives a star making performance from a young actor so far this year. Chloe Moretz, as always, solidly deliver as Hugo's sidekick, Sasha Baron Cohen provides some wonderful comic relief and Ben Kingsley gives a masterful and poignant performance we've seen in years to come in his career

Hugo is like going inside a filmmaker's dreams. It's gorgeous, imaginative and most importantly at its heart, it has something that has been missing in many intrepid movies aimed at children - it's smart, mature, has adventure and doesn't condescend to that kind of people. And it comes to a surprise that Scorsese would succeed in this kind of genre. Hugo is possibly one of the highest points of his career based on that and his germain fascination with 3D and stylish visuals. In a year filled with sequels, reboots and remakes, Hugo stands out with substance.

A- (9.3)


  1. Yes I fully agree, I'm glad that Marty was able to get into family films without ruining himself in some way (Robert Rodriguez comes to mind) I loved watching this film, it was almost like an experience that captured everything I love about the art of film, and the 3D was just amazing, makes me want to buy a 3D tv just to get the same experience in the future when I get the blu-ray of this.

  2. terrific review. Sadly, I missed seeing this film in cinemas, so i'm waiting for the DVD release.

  3. @Rodders Actually it would be better if you're waiting for the Blu Ray because the film is so beautiful to watch.