Release Date: November 23, 2011 (3D/2D theaters)
Studio: Paramount Pictures
Director: Martin Scorsese
Screenwriter: John Logan
Starring: Asa Butterfield, Chloe Grace Moretz, Sacha Baron Cohen, Ben Kingsley, Jude Law, Ray Winstone, Christopher Lee, Helen McCrory, Richard Griffiths, Frances de la Tour, Emily Mortimer, Michael Stuhlbarg
Genre: Family, Fantasy, Mystery
MPAA Rating: PG (for mild thematic material, some action/peril and smoking)
Official Website: Hugomovie.com
“Films have the power to capture dreams!” ~ Georges Méliès
This is most definitely true within Martin Scorsese’s first 3D film release, Hugo. Based on Brian Selznick’s imaginative New York Times bestseller, “The Invention of Hugo Cabret,” Scorsese takes it upon himself to showcase the magic of movies and the profound impact film maker Georges Méliès had on the world of cinema.
It’s always fun for me to learn something new in any film I watch. How often do films actually provide anything new these days right? Having grown up with a mother whose knowledge of film history has extended into her teaching repertoire, Georges Méliès was a name I remember hearing but knew very little about. Now I was able to see the films by the the director whose name I vaguely remember. I’m certain you’ve all experienced this sensation, right? Little tidbits of things you remember as a child suddenly reveal themselves as giant influences within American culture in unique, and profound ways. As soon as the image of the rocket ship in the eye of the moon appeared, the light bulb above my head clicked on, and I remembered.
As stated above, the film isn’t solely based on Georges Méliès’ life, but rather on a book about a small boy whose dreams carried him into great discoveries. How much of the book is actually true, I don’t really know, but the film does a fantastic job at delivering the same type of magic that Brian Selznick intended us to experience.
Hugo is a mini phantom of the Opera, hiding within the walls of a Paris train station, keeping the clocks clean and working thanks to the education he received from his drunk, dead beat uncle. having recently lost his father in a house fire, Hugo tries to hold onto some physical memory of him by fixing a mysterious little automaton that his father found in a museum long ago. The search for gears led him into the bitter path of a grump toy man who seemed determined to stop Hugo in his desires. However, the old man’s god child, Isabelle, has a little adventurer lurking inside of her, dying to get out. With her love of secrets, (and words beyond her grade level) she helps Hugo in solving the mystery of the automaton, his father, and how it’s all connected to the toy man.
One thing Scorsese had to take liberties on with the film were some of the character involvements and comedic effects. For those of you who get a little irked when films based off of novels deviate from the original plot, please note that a film based off of a book that has more pictures than text is going to need something a little more substantial within the plot to help fill two full hours. Thankfully, Scorsese’s experience as one of America’s best directors puts him in perfect position to create a wonderful film to do just that.
There are many more slap-stick moments in comparison to the book, especially towards the beginning of the film involving the limp station inspector, played expertly by Sacha Baron Cohen (Bruno). Cohen delivered a performance unlike I’ve ever seen. As much as I hate his acting endeavors and film projects, this role may have cleared him a best supporting actor nomination.
Not being too familiar with book, I can’t truly say how faithful the film is to the source material. But I can say, with absolute certainty, that nothing in the film feels out of place, contrived, plotty, or unnecessary. The story’s foundation is in the fixing of a mechanical man, which turns into a moralistic tale of mending the human spirit. Who better to show how that is done than Ben Kingsley (Gandhi) as the famous film director? Just like with Cohen, Kingsley also delivered a performance worthy of an Oscar nomination. I’ve never been dissapointed with anything Kingsley has done, and this film marks one of his best performances I’ve ever seen.
The two child actors, Chloë Grace Moretz (Kick-Ass) as the adventurous Isabelle, and Asa Butterfield (Nanny McPhee) as the story’s protagonist seemed tailor made for these two parts. I almost bursted out laughing at Moretz’s delivery and almost disgusted look in retort of Hugo’s seemingly uninterested demeanor of the library. She semi-scolded Hugo by way of saying, “Don’t you like books?” I relate to you Isabelle, it’s beyond my comprehension too! But Butterfield stole the show with his believable and innocent performance of a young boy who has more sense within him than most of the adults hectically running around in the station.
The best part of this whole cinematic experience for me was reminder of the beginnings of cinema. As old and tattered as they were, Georges Méliès’ old films are still a sight to see. To put myself in the shoes of those who first experienced these moving wonders helped me to remember that film today just isn’t quite the same as it was. The simple telling of a story has been lost within the inclusion of explosions, sexuality, and other cacophonous jargon that is there simply for the sake of being there. I love a good action flick, don’t get me wrong, but it’s always nice to remember where the things we love got started. I hope others who go to see this film can sit back and enjoy the magical story of a film maker who started it all.
I didn’t get to see this movie until after the new year, so in my film rankings, I’ll be bulking it with the 2012 list. However, without a doubt, I dub this film the best motion picture of the 2011!
10 out of 10 stars