Hugo (Asa Butterfield) is young orphan living in a train station in 1930s Paris. He finds
himself involved in a mystery surrounding an automaton that is the final
remaining possession of his late father.
What we thought
Since the late 1960s, Martin Scorsese has remained one of
America's greatest filmmakers who, aside for being remarkably prolific, has
released a good dozen or so films that represent the very pinnacle of cinema as
an artform. He may have had his ups and downs, but no one would dare suggest
that Scorsese hasn't by now, in a year when he is to celebrate his 70th
birthday, earned both his place in history and the right to rest on his laurels
and allow his spectacular body of work to speak for itself.
Instead, he has
released Hugo, a film that may not be as influential as his best known
films but is every bit as good as anything he has ever
The secret to its success clearly lies in the fact that Hugo
is so thoroughly different, so diametrically opposed even, to the gritty explorations
of the dark side of life that has permeated all of his signature masterpieces.
If not for the sheer technical mastery with which Hugo is put together,
it would be nigh impossible to believe that it shares a director with the likes
of Goodfellas, Raging Bull and Taxi Driver. Aside
from the gloriously pulpy pastiche of Shutter Island, the only films that
so much as hint towards Hugo in Scorsese's brilliant but undeniably dark
oeuvre, are the several music documentaries he has released over the years.
Hugo isn't the Scorsese of Raging Bull, nor is
it even the Scorsese of the "lighter fair" of The King of Comedy or After
Hours – it's the Scorsese of Shine A Light, No Direction Home,
Living In The Material World and, of course, The Last Waltz. As his
love for music suffused these documentaries/concert films with a genuine sense
of warm-hearted joie de vivre (even if the subjects themselves could
have called for a far darker approach), so too has his love for cinema
given Hugo the kind of delightful, child-like sense of wonder that is
normally the preserve of a Steven Spielberg or a Frank Capra.
Based on a beloved children's book The Invention of Hugo Cabret, this is
Scorsese's self-described attempt to make a film suitable for his young
daughter (it's the first of his films to be rated PG in 20 years) but it
would hardly be a stretch to say that it is something he also made for his
younger self. Without giving anything away, Hugo is a simple but
beautiful and witty adventure story, filled with likeable young
heroes, exciting set pieces and colourful supporting characters - and partly a
film about film itself.
Scorsese's obvious enthusiasm for the early days of
cinema comes through his loving attention to detail and
vital, joyous celebration of the first films and the way they were produced and
projected. This is the history of cinema as told by the coolest professor in
Every single aspect of Hugo is perfectly honed and lovingly
crafted. Scorsese's direction is as certain and sure-footed as it ever was and
the great man has clearly gone to great lengths to ensure that every aspect of
production is as perfect as his own vision.
The cinematography of Robert
Richardson is nothing short of breathtaking as the camera swoops and glides through
the slightly surreal world of a stylised 1930s Paris - as created by the immensely talented crew of art directors, make-up artists and set
designers that Scorsese has assembled. And Hugo is simply the best
script that veteran screenwriter John Logan has ever written.
As for the mostly British cast, you would have to go a long
way to find better than the assortment of thespians that both lead (Asa
Butterfield, Chloe Grace Moretz, Ben Kingsley) and add colourful support (Ray
Winstone, Sacha Baron Cohen, Emily Mortimer, Christopher Lee) to the unfolding
Asa Butterfield, all of 13 years at the time of filming, is
especially excellent in the title role – he's so great in fact that Scorsese
apparently (according to the man himself) decided to have all the actors in the
film speak with an English accent, despite all the action being set in France,
so as not to mess with the pitch-perfect performance that he gave when
auditioning in his native, English accent.
If you're not convinced by the film's instant classic status
then consider this: Scorsese has created a film that genuinely needs to be seen
in 3D. Not only does the 3D effect actually add to the film visually, it also
has a story-based reason for being there. It apparently wasn't enough that
Scorsese has made a true masterpiece that stands head and shoulders with his
very best work but he had to go ahead and show that maybe there might just be
more to 3D than an expensive and increasingly irritating gimmick.
Ignore the questionable marketing, whatever your age, make
sure that not only do you see this spectacular piece of cinema as soon as you
possibly can but make sure you see it the way God and Marty Scorsese intended:
projected and in glorious 3D. It's
The film is so to say the ultimate package with a good director, good leading actor, and an all-star cast. Read More »
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If ever there was a reason why no government should ever have the death penalty, Shepherds and Butchers is why – a masterpiece of raw emotional trauma. Read More »
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