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Director: Martin Scorsese
Writers: John Logan, Brian Selznick
Cast: Asa Butterfield, Chloe Grace Moretz, Christopher Lee, Ben Kingsley, Sacha Baron Cohen, Ray Winstone, Emily Mortimer, Helen McCrory, Jude Law, Michael Stuhlbarg, Richard Griffiths, Kevin Eldon, Gulliver McGrath, Shaun Aylward, Emil Lager, Angus Barnett, Edmund Kingsley, Max Wrottesley, Marco Aponte, Ben Addis, Robert Gill, Ed Sanders, Max Cane, Terence Frisch, Stephen Box, Frank Bourke, Mihai Arsene
Synopsis: Set in 1930s Paris, an orphan who lives in the walls of a train station is wrapped up in a mystery involving his late father and an automaton.
MPAA Rating: Rated PG for mild thematic material, some action/peril and smoking
A Trip to the Moon by Georges Milies
A family film that will not only defy the limits of your imagination, but it'll take you on epic journey unlike anything that you've ever seen before..
In some ways, one could say that Martin Scorsese is this generation's Akira Kurasawa. Granted, both men have their own unique directing styles, and both have made their own unique contribution to the film industry. Don't get me wrong, I'm not comparing either of these men, but the versatility that Scorsese shows directing "Hugo" is eerily reminiscent to how versatile Kurasawa was with his style back in the day.
Although many people often reflect on many of Kurasawa's epic dramatic films such as "Ran", "Rashomon" and "Seven Samurai", but people sometimes forget that he also directed such films like "Yojimbo" and "Sanjuro"; two films that were deemed great action thriller movies for their perspective time periods. Unlike most directors of today's generation, Kurasawa was very versatile in his style of film making, as he always managed to defy audiences with engaging stories no matter the subject matter.
As most film buffs know, each director has a unique style all their own, and very few are versatile enough to transcend said style into other genres. Case in point, Michael Bay is a perfect example of this. Don't get me wrong, I think he's a great visual director in a sense that he knows how to create an epic action scene. However, we need to be honest with ourselves here. It'll be a cold day in hell when Michael Bay directs a movie that's worthy enough to even be considered for an Oscar nomination for "Best Picture." Why do I say this? Because as great as he is at making action films, his directing style would never lead it's way into directing dramas, or possibly romantic comedies for instance. Granted, I know this is a crude example, but you get what I'm saying. The point is that most directors aren't versatile with their crafts, which limits them to types of films they make. Yes, there are exceptions, but it's kind of a rarity.
As for what does this have to do with Martin Scorsese and "Hugo", I'll get into that now. If you've ever seen a Martin Scorsese movie in the past, then you should know that most of his films are often gritty, with a bit of dark undertones mixed into them; hence it kind of makes you wonder why he'd elect to do "Hugo." However, not only does Scorsese manage to pull off the film nicely, but I have to say this is probably the best family film that I've seen in a long time. Unlike most of Scorsese's movies, "Hugo" is more of a coming of age story that not only offers us humor and great visual effects, but it also treats us to an epic fantasy story that'll capture your imagination, and never let it go.
The movie is based off the popular children's book, "The Invention of Hugo Cabret" by Brian Selznick. Set in the 1930's, a twelve year old boy by the name of Hugo Cabret (Asa Butterfield) lives within the walls of a train station after his father dies, and his Uncle mysteriously disappears. Hugo is highly resourceful for his age, and seems quite handy when it comes to fixing clocks and other various things. Before his father died, they were working on an automaton together. For those who may not know what an automaton is, it's essentially a non electric machine that operates in the same fashion to an old wind up clock, and it has an eerily similar appearance to a miniature human being; kind of like a wind up doll.
Anyway, the movie's main inspiration draws from the true story about the infamous film maker, Georges Melies (Ben Kingsley), who was most known for his movie, "A Trip to the Moon." According to various biographies, Georges Melies was once a professional magician, who one day became fascinated with the art of "moving pictures" that was still fairly new in 1895. It didn't take long before he started to try to produce his own series of movies. By accident, Georges Melies discovered that he could use stop-motion photography to create various visual effects. Also, according to imdb.com, Georges was the first film maker to ever use such cinematography techniques like the fade in, fade out, and even dissolve, as he was able to create some of the first narrative films in cinematic history. Needless to say, the movie is a bit of a homage to the legendary film maker, so it's not surprising it's getting a lot of attention from the Academy Awards this year.
However, I wouldn't easily dismiss this film as some artsy movie that'll only appeal to cinema snobs. No, this movie has a very broad appeal if anything else. Yes, it pays a great homage to a legendary film maker, but it's also a captivating emotional story about a young boy struggling to find his place in the world, after the loss of his father. As I mentioned earlier, Hugo is an orphan living on his own in the big city of 1930's Paris, while constantly avoiding the Station Inspector (Sacha Baron Cohen), who loves to send orphans to foster homes against their will.
As luck would have it, Hugo comes upon Georges' toy shop, as he tries to steal a watch from him. The watch is said to contain the parts he needs to finish the automaton, as he feels that once it's completed, it might somehow give him a message from his deceased father. Unfortunately, Hugo is caught by Georges, and he confiscates his blue prints of the automaton; which Hugo was using to figure out the missing parts it needed. Georges demands Hugo provide an explanation, but Hugo is unable to answer; hence our story truly begins. Although Hugo is reluctant to tell his story, he somehow manages to befriend Georges' goddaughter, Isabelle (Chloe Grace Moretz), as she becomes the first person he allows into his isolated world. Together they embark on a journey full of mystery and wonders that'll entrap the hearts and imaginations of it's viewers, while paying homage to one of cinema's earliest legends.
The chemistry between Chloe Grace Moretz and Asa Butterfield is simply amazing in this movie, as they definitely fed off each other quite well, and one could argue they make quite the young couple. Of course, Ben Kingsley does an excellent job portraying the iconic film maker, Georges Melies, who comes off as a sincere sympathetic figure; in spit of how rudely he acts towards Hugo in the beginning of the movie. As for Sacha Baron Cohen, he's mainly used as comedy relief for Scorsese's film, which shouldn't surprise too many people considering his acting resume. However, he's still genuinely very funny in this movie. Granted, his scenes are a bit over the top at times, but it fits the tone of the movie perfectly, as one can't help but laugh at some of his antics in this film.
As for the special effects and cinematography, "Hugo" features some of the best visuals that I've ever seen in a movie before, and that's saying a lot considering that I grew up on mainly science fiction and fantasy films, as a kid. Therefore, it takes a lot to impress me when it comes to special effects, and "Hugo" definitely surpasses all my expectations. I was especially impressed by the 3-D cinematography of this film, as there were times that the characters literally almost jumped out of the screen at me. In one scene for example, there was a close up Sacha's face, as the camera eased itself closer. During that moment, I could almost swear Sacha's giant face was right in front of me. Granted, most movies use 3-D as a gimmick, but "Hugo" is one of the rare few that uses it to perfection, and it serves a purpose in orchestrating this epic fantasy tale like no other.
Although the film is already on DVD/Blue-Ray, I would still encourage anyone to see it; especially if you have a 3-D Television and Blue Ray player at home. Sure, it'll cost you a bit more, but it's definitely worth the money to see arguably one of the most visually stunning films ever made. However, if you can't afford to go this route, then it's still worth checking out on DVD/Blue Ray anyway. In the end, I'd give this movie a perfect four out of four. Maybe it's the amazing visuals, the great performances, the epic story, and stunning direction by Scorsese that has me captivated by this film. Or, it could be that I'm engulfed in how well "Hugo" pays such homage to an earlier era of films, as I fail to see anything wrong with this movie.