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Hugo Review

Simon’s Rating: 8/10
Player Affinity Composite Rating: 8.8/10
(4 reviews total)

Just like films themselves
are often transcendent of their medium, so are the best family movies
transcendent of their genre. They have the capacity to enchant any generation,
as well as grow with a younger viewer, forever revealing new levels of charm. Martin
Scorsese’s Hugo is a film for cinema
lovers (and as such the child in all of us) and an ode to movies of old, as
much as it is a warm, Christmastime endeavor that demands a smile and a
softened heart.

In his premier foray into
multi-generational filmmaking, Scorsese has crafted a mystical Paris as intricate and fantastical as the
clocks and machines that populate the world of young Hugo Cabret, played here
by young Asa Butterfield. The 1930s Paris train station features twisting corridors, billowing steam, mammoth gears ominously gliding overhead and many
clocks that serve not only to tell time to bustling travelers, but also serve as a literal
window for the sheltered Hugo to pear through (and into) the seemingly happier
lives of its visitors and employees. Hugo, you see, is an orphan. The son of a
clock-maker who tragically perished in a fire, he lives out his adolescence
dutifully winding the clocks across the terminal, sneaking food whenever he may
avert a stare and avoiding the embittered Station Inspector (Sacha Baron Cohen)
who would — in a heartbeat — send him off to an orphanage.

Hugo has but one semblance
of a friend: a maddeningly complex automaton that his father and he worked on
before his death. He believes fixing the damaged machine is the only way to fix
himself and appease his father’s memory – it’s a lonely existence. Things change quickly, as Hugo crosses paths with a cranky toy-maker (Ben Kingsley)
and his goddaughter, Isabelle (Chloe Grace Moretz) and a series of events and
coincidences thrust the trio in a redemptive adventure. All of the actors I’ve
listed are outstanding here, particularly Kingsley and Moretz; one has lost his
zest for life and the other seemingly has too much. The journey these
characters undertake comprises the latter portion of what is essentially a
two-act film. The first focuses on Hugo’s quest to reanimate, as it were, the
automaton, and the second on how his adventure uncovers unexpected secrets.

Everyone here is a broken
character in some capacity, and the parallels to repairing machines and fixing
oneself are numerous (and often explicitly stated) and is the driving force for
the protagonists. Amidst these struggles is a romance between Baron Cohen’s
guard and a flower salesman played by the lovely Emily Mortimer. These segments
are sweet, and Baron Cohen is superb as a wounded war veteran turned awkward,
miserable enforcer, but they add length to a movie which could have used a bit
of a strip-down. The best sequence comes near the end, as Kingsley’s character
reveals his past in a emotionally complex montage which happens to be a true-to-life story – I will not reveal how it plays out, but it ties to the origin of
moving pictures and is seamlessly nostalgic and extremely clever.

Scorsese handles this
unfamiliar execution not only like the old pro but also with as deft a hand as
any other “family film” auteur. His material is mature, but in a charming
enough way to keep the younger ones engaged (if not riveted), as I could very
easily see those under the age of eight becoming extremely bored by his rather
talky fable. What will keep kids enamored is the sensational 3D, which is
hands down the best I’ve ever seen, and yes that includes Avatar. Every frame of Hugo
is presented in the additional dimension and the scenes you would expect to
jump out do, and make the world pop even more
vividly – it’s a triumph to say the least.

Pacing issues and the
inclusion of some unnecessarily flashy segments aside, this is a very good
movie, that is nearly great and at times achieves the coveted title of
masterwork. Part Cinema Paradiso and
part Polar Express, Hugo rarely misses a beat when it comes
to all-encompassing charm and shows that a family movie does not require blue
CGI creations or talking rodents. It can succeed on warmth and a happy ending
in the truest sense. For movie-lovers young and old, Hugo should restart the child in everyone, even if It’s been long
in need of a re-winding.

Rating: 8/10

Directed by Martin
Written by John Logan
Starring Asa Butterfield,
Chloe Grace Moretz, Ben Kingsley, Sasha Baron Cohen

Other Player Affinity Reviews

John thought: “Martin Scorsese’s Hugo is this joyful love letter to youth, discovery, and the magic of movies. It’s also a visual feast for the eyes like we haven’t seen in years. Although a complete departure on so many levels for Scorsese, Hugo is just as good as some of his best works, both technically and thematically. Its performances are top-notch, and the director’s vision is as clear as crystal. Those concerned that Scorsese has gone soft needn’t worry. Sure, Hugo is family-friendly and has more heart than you’d expect from the guy who made Taxi Driver, but the great director doesn’t sacrifice anything to accommodate the little ones. It’s a monumentally satisfying experience (especially if you opt to see it in 3D), and easily one of the best films of the year.” Rating: 10/10

Sam thought: “With an infectious atmosphere of discovery and delightful characters inhabiting a beautifully realized post-war Parisian train station, Scorsese has crafted his first great children’s movie, one for the aged as well as the ages. The film has all the trappings of a whimsical children’s classic but its in the film’s second act that Scorsese’s own childhood takes over. We’re treated to a biopic unlike any other Scorsese salutes the work of a cinematic legend born in a time where celebration of great artists was often posthumous. It will certainly strike a cord more readily with viewers getting the seniors discount rather than the child one, and its easy to lose track of the kids at the centre of the story once Ben Kingsley’s desperately grief-stricken performance takes over. The plays toward child sensibilities mostly come in the form of sumptuous chase scenes and characters explicitly declaring themes, but Hugo’s crystallization of the magic that goes into making movies has a timeless quality that will have you thinking its already an old favorite.” Rating: 8/10

Steven thought: “Never underestimate Martin Scorsese. Just because Hugo lacks in F-words doesn’t mean the master filmmaker is so out of his element that he couldn’t possibly put his stamp on this family-friendly film. In fact, Hugo might be the most personal of the director’s catalog. What begins as a period piece fairy tale mystery blossoms into a love letter to cinema in unexpected yet charming ways. The entire film ends up as a successful exercise in sweeping the audience into a heart-driven story and diverting attention from issues with some of the film’s more practical story components. But even those scenes that play to children only do so outwardly; in truth they reflect storytelling technique of the silent era, bolstering this homage even further. Ironically or fittingly, there’s the 3D, which in the hands of a visual master proves it should not be regarded as the bastard child of the 21st Century. Hugo is a visual, heart-warming delight.” Rating: 9/10

Player Affinity Composite Rating: 8.8/10 


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