PG Cooper: Hugo Review

Posted: November 27, 2011 by Daniel Simpson (PG Cooper) in PG Cooper's Movie Reviews


Release date: November 23rd, 2011

Running time: 127 minutes

Written by: John Logan

Based on: The novel “The Invention of Hugo Cabaret” by Brian Selznick

Directed by: Martin Scorsese

Starring: Asa Butterfield, Chloe Moretz, Ben Kingsley, Sacha Baron Cohen, and Christopher Lee

Martin Scorsese is one of the greatest filmmakers of all time, and a personal favourite of mine. After almost forty years, Scorsese has remained a relevant filmmaker and continues to put out great films. Whenever a new Scorsese movie comes out, I get really excited.  When I heard he’d be directing a children’s film, I was intrigued. If it was another director, I may have been skeptical, but I had faith in Scorsese. With that said, the first trailer made me very nervous. The film just looked way too childish. The second trailer was a step up, but the first trailer still left me a little jaded. Then the film started getting rave reviews. My faith had been completely renewed. Now that I’ve seen it, I feel stupid for ever doubting Scorsese.

The film revolves around a young boy named Hugo Cabaret (Asa Butterfield) who lives in the train station, constantly avoiding the watchful eye of the train station inspector (Sacha Baron Cohen). Hugo has lived in the station since his father (Jude Law) died. Young Hugo continues his father’s work, trying to fix the mysterious automaton his father gave him. While living in the station, Hugo meets Isabelle (Chloe Moretz), a girl his age. The two take a liking to each other and form a close bond. So ends my plot description. I don’t want to risk spoiling anything since watching this story unfold is one of the film highlights.

The first thing that struck me about Hugo was just how beautiful the film was. The opening shot sweeps through Paris and eventually through the train station. I was visually sucked into the film in under 30 seconds. It’s Martin Scorsese, so I knew the cinematography would be great. Even so, Scorsese still finds ways to wow me. Just as impressive as the cinematography is the art direction. The train station and the streets of Paris look great, but it’s the inner workings of the station that are really amazing. These sets are a visual delight. Some of the visuals are the kind of things you might see in an animated film, but Scorsese brings it to live action flawlessly. On top of that, the 3D in this film is great. I usually avoid 3D, but I knew if Scorsese was filming in 3D, it would look great. Sure enough, the 3D here is awesome. It’s used to actually immerse the viewer in the film’s world instead of just being a cheap gimmick. The film has a large budget, and it shows in the visuals. If nothing else, Hugo is worth seeing just to watch Scorsese cut loose with a large budget.

The cast here is quite good. I have never seen Asa Butterfield in anything before this, but he really impressed me here. Hugo is immediately likable. He’s a smart and resourceful kid, and I really enjoyed watching him explore the train station’s inner workings. Asa also brought some strong emotions to the screen and sold his character very well. I found Asa most impressive in scenes where he talked about his late father. Asa managed to always walk the line perfectly. Showing a lot of sadness, but also not going over the top. Chloe Moretz is an actress who I’ve enjoyed since Kick Ass, and her career continues to move forward. Moretz is equally likable as Isabelle. She’s a young girl with a passion for books and adventure. Watching the relationship between Hugo and Isabelle develop into an innocent and childlike romance is very satisfying. The two have a lot of chemistry, and some of the best scenes in the film are when the two play off each other.

Scorsese also managed to assemble an immense supporting cast. Ben Kingsley stands out as Isabelle’s godfather, George. I don’t want to say too much about George, because there’s a pretty big twist in the film involving him. I will say that George is an angry and broken down old man. There’s more to it than that, but I don’t want to say too much. What I will say is Kingsley is fantastic and brings a lot of depth to it. Sacha Baron Cohen plays the chief inspector at the train station. While at first the character came off as a cliched bad guy, you begin to see more depth as the film goes on. He seems like a sad and pitiful person who is using his job to take out his frustrations. Cohen manages to be sad and pitiful, menacing and scary, but also pretty funny. Looking back, it’s amazing to think he pulled off such a balancing act. Tons of other actors appear here in brief but memorable parts, such as Christopher Lee, Jude Law, Emily Mortimer, and Ray Winstone.

The film has been advertised as a sort of fantasy-adventure film, but that isn’t entirely accurate. There is an adventure component to the film and it is handled well, but there’s a lot more to Hugo than that. Hugo actually heavily revolves around the history of film. Hugo is a testament to the power of film, and by extension, the power of art. As a film lover, it’s incredibly satisfying to see a film that is such a passionate tribute to cinema. This is what elevates Hugo to greatness. While Hugo is a kids film, it doesn’t cater to kids. It’s both a love letter to film, an argument for film preservation and the preservation of history, and it’s a film about taking pride in your accomplishments.

With Hugo, Martin Scorsese and writer John Logan have made a kids film for adults. That isn’t to say kids won’t like it, but it doesn’t dumb itself down so kids will understand. Like I said, Hugo  is attended for adults, specifically adults who love cinema. While Hugo is a radical departure from the usually very dark Scorsese films, it’s clear this was a project that Scorsese had a lot of passion for. I can’t describe how good I felt leaving the theater. Not everyone is going to embrace it like I have, but I absolutely love Hugo. One of the year’s best.

Rating: A+

  1. Glad you loved it. I wanted to, but just didn’t. I’m sure you’re aware of my problems with the pacing by now.

    Some direct commments – Cohen can be so funny, and had a really great slapstick potential, I was actually sad to see his role wind up so restrained. More realistic probably, but far less fun. And funny.

    I like Moretz, but the more I think about this film, the more I think she bugged me a little here. Not sure why. Her accent? She seemed a little overly precocious at times. I dont know.

    But all in all it was a very good film. I just have some issues with it that on first viewing are keeping me signing up for the choir.

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