MPAA Rating: PG/ Genre: Adventure-Drama/ Stars: Asa Butterfield, Chloë Grace Moretz, Ben Kingsley, Sacha Baron Cohen, Ray Winstone, Emily Mortimer, Jude Law, Helen McCrory, Michael Stuhlbarg, Christopher Lee, Frances de la Tour, Richard Griffiths, Kevin Eldon, Gulliver McGrath, Angus Barnett, Ben Addis, Emil Lager, Robert Gill/ Runtime: 127 minutes
I think it is safe to start this review off by letting you know that the movie Hugo is a film which deals a lot with the dual concepts of both things which are secret and things which are discovered as well as pasts that have been all but forgotten and optimistic futures. A tad bit ironic really seeing as those are the same qualities that easily fit into the vast world of movie magic itself. Indeed celebrated film helming icon Martin Scorsese’s 2011 film for both kids and the film lover in all of us is one which manages to embrace film as an art form in a manner that seldom few films here lately haven’t really gone about doing so with perhaps the exception of The Artist also from 2011. Yet unlike The Artist, Scorsese’s movie functions as a tribute more to both the storied past of as well as the possibilities that film as an entertainment medium still possesses even as it seems the world of movie magic is becoming more and more commercialized by the day. Indeed Hugo is a true celebration to both the visions of the finest crafters of movie magic, but also to the sense of amazement and wonder that a film can conjure up when made with a passion for story, an adoration for film as a medium, and a respect and admiration for those who sit down to watch the magic unfurl before their very eyes. Above all though, Hugo is meant to be a reminder of just how extraordinary if not downright beautiful and magical film can be when done right. Thus it is safe to say that this movie, based on an equally as praise worthy book known as “The Invention of Hugo Cabret,” is a rare diamond that could have the power not only to give you back your long worn-away adoration for the magic of movies, but also serves as a symbol of hope that, despite the over commercialization, genuine movie magic still can and does exist. Indeed it really truly is a movie for everyone to sit down and enjoy now and always and also functions as a just plain brilliant and mesmerizing movie going experience that is conjured up with the same love and affection that the film’s narrative is able to showcase to say nothing of the riveting sense of awe and discovery that whilst watching will refresh you like a nice cool breeze on a hot summer day.
The plot is as follows: Hugo tells us the riveting yarn of a young boy who goes by the name of Hugo Cabret whose life is made up of equal parts loneliness and hunger in a train station in the great city of Paris as he unbeknownst to anyone performs maintenance on the clocks in the station whilst living in hiding above the platforms due to the fact that this is the location of the astonishing degree of orchestrated mechanics that keeps passengers both aware of what time it is (duh) as well as what train they need to get on to get to where they need to go. We also quickly learn that Hugo has been there living there alone due to both the untimely demise of his dad and the mysterious disappearance of his alcoholic uncle who once did the job Hugo now does. Thus in order to get by, Hugo steals what he needs from both a bakery and a toy shop in the vicinity of the station and, as a result, has made a pair of enemies in the form of both the toy shop’s mysterious yet gruff owner Georges as well as a no-nonsense cop with a large dog for an assistant. One day however, Georges catches our intrepid hero in the midst of stealing some parts and, as punishment, takes away not only what he was stealing, but also a cherished notebook that has pictures of what is known as an automaton that Hugo has been trying to restore due to believing it has a hidden message from dear old Dad within it. Suffice it to say that Hugo is quite emotionally torn about losing the book to such an extent that he follows the old toy shop owner to his home and begs and pleads for the book back, but alas to no avail. However this occurrence does result in Hugo meeting Georges’ goddaughter Isabelle who, despite her cantankerous godfather’s reluctance, comes to befriend our intrepid young hero. Thus our dynamic duo soon find themselves setting out on a truly unique adventure, one that will not only uncover long-buried secrets, but also have the potential to both mold the future and perhaps find a place for Hugo to at long last be able to call “home.”
Now this is a film which manages not only to be aglow with the classic style of movie magic, but is also a delightful result of carefully-assembled work in the editing, effects, and shots departments as much as the narrative and performance departments respectively. Put another way: by having every ingredient working together in delightful synchronicity, film helmer Scorsese is able to brilliantly combine both the complicated world of the train station with the more immersive and more pathos driven characterizations as well as various wrinkles in the narrative with a skill only a master could conjure up thus giving us as an audience a truly marvelous film that is an excellent tribute to both film and just how powerful the human imagination truly can be. Yet, to his credit, Scorsese also manages to ensure this is, despite the intricate special effects work, both a labor of love and one that leaves nothing up for your imagination to figure out. Not to mention, but the rhythm and structure of the film are such that you will yourself immersed in the world of film and discovering that the world you are a part of is a very private and yet welcoming one despite it being a representation for things which may seem alien to the typical modern audience who is always craving more despite the very real possibility that the “more” they crave is actually giving them “less” (ingenious move there Hollywood). To that end, this film presents us with timeless yet simplistic concepts, but then showcases them as necessary cornerstones in one’s life. Indeed concepts such as doing what you were meant to do in life, and continuing on against the odds in your way amongst others are held up on pedestals from beginning to end, and as a result the film itself is able to show that having a purpose, compassion, and appreciating what came before so we can look ahead with a hint of optimism and hope aren’t just important for film as a medium to explore, but also integral for each and every one of us to get the most out of life as well.
Now it is most definitely worth point out that based off what was said at the end of the last section that Hugo most assuredly is a representation for cherishing both life and the power of film. Yet when you look it over on that first glance, this is also a film which is truly phenomenal just based off the superficial ingredients alone. Indeed this is a film which manages to mix together brilliantly digital backgrounds and live action in a manner that, to the point of this film’s release, hadn’t been done before or at least with this much heart and love for the far-removed era this film is set in. Yes there are no creatures or “otherworldly” ingredients at play in this, but to be able to recreate old-school Paris on this level and have it mix together as well with the live action, it would not surprise me if you dear reader initially thought that Hugo was either a rediscovered film from the Golden Age of Cinema or that time travel had secretly been invented and brought us back this film for all of us to cherish and enjoy. I mean it really is hard for even an accomplished, to some degree, film reviewer of my ilk to tell the difference between what is realistic and what was done digitally; a level of praise that most assuredly is a result of not just the quality of the work done by the effects department, but also by Scorsese in the narrative department as well. Indeed the celebrated helmer manages to bring you not only into the film, but into a whole new world where we get to witness phenomenal amounts of both authenticity and magic blend and create a truly faultless film that is also an ode to loving care and ensuring that things work, much like the machinery in this film, in delightful synchronicity in the way that only a master helmsman like Scorsese could get it all to work.
Thus I honestly feel that, with perhaps the exception of maybe Steven Spielberg, there is no other film helmer who could have brought the essence of what makes this film as special as Martin Scorsese does. Indeed this is because the narrative and themes at the heart of this movie really speak on not only embracing film as art, but also on how crucial the care, crafting, appreciating, and preserving film is for future generations so they can enjoy it too are an integral part of what Scorsese himself has tried to accomplish throughout his entire career. Not only that, but this film manages to work with a delightful smoothness as well as degree of realism that could only originate from a master helmsman who knows in his heart what film is truly all about. I mean let’s be real movie goers: with few exceptions film really has been void of that sense of magic for a long time now. Indeed films made nowadays are viewed or dealt with rather than experienced or even appreciated. Thankfully, Hugo manages to reconfirm the purity that can exist within this medium by simultaneously promoting said purity and utilizing just what it is trying to convey to audiences. As a result, we get a film that is both exuding a personal vibe, but also delightfully simplistic and will warm your heart whilst also providing audiences with a delightful vibe of awe and amazement as the film proves to be a winning testament to just how strong the imagination can be and how crucial film is as something that is genuinely special and unique in this world which this film tells us it could one day be yet again.
All in all Hugo really truly is a unique and enjoyable film that also functions as a true ode to the medium that is film and as perhaps one of the finest cinematic outings brought to us by one of the finest helmers to ever get behind the camera and make movie magic. Indeed this is a film that manages to amaze and astonish from beginning to end with its warmth, humanity, and riveting attention to detail. That and from a technical standpoint the narrative never is a letdown, the themes at play will ring true, and the film offers us one of the biggest amounts of heart I’ve seen in a film in the past 20 years. Thus it is safe to say that Hugo above anything else is a terrific representation of not only cinema at its most unfiltered, but also as it was meant to be and how it needs to be and as such is a true movie going experience that should most certainly be viewed at least once if not more. On a scale of 1-5 I give Hugo a solid 4 out of 5.