Hugo (2011)

DVD Cover (Paramount)
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Overall Rating 75%
Overall Rating
Ranked #368
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Ben Kingsley
Ben Kingsley
Sacha Baron Cohen
Sacha Baron Cohen
Asa Butterfield
Asa Butterfield
ChloŽ Grace Moretz
ChloŽ Grace Moretz
Ray Winstone
Ray Winstone
Review by bluemeanie
Added: November 25, 2011
Here is a film that possesses a genuine magic. Here is a filmmaker still resting at the top of his field. Here is the perfect melding of film and film-maker. "Hugo" represents all of these and much more. It's a fairy tale, where entities like Snow White and Sleeping Beauty have been replaced by cinema itself.

The title character of this film, Hugo Cabret (Asa Butterfield), lives in a large Parisian train station and makes sure all of the clocks continue to work and stay on time. He learned this skill from his father (Jude Law), who was fascinated by automatons and even brought one home to try and fix. But, when he died, he left the machine unfinished and his son with an obsession, certain that fixing the machine will reveal a hidden message from his father.

Hugo's survives at the station by stealing what he can, careful to stay out of reach of the menacing inspector (Sacha Baron Cohen) whose mechanical leg squeaks and gives him away more often than not. One day he is caught red handed by George Melies (Ben Kingsley) -- yes, 'that' George Melies -- who runs a small magic and toy shop inside the station. A relationship forms between Hugo and Melies' god-daughter (Chloe Grace Moretz), who really just wants to have an adventure. What they discover is so much more meaningful.

Film rests at the heart of "Hugo" -- the love of film, the appreciation of film and the way in which film can transform the lives of those it touches. As you might know, George Melies was a pioneer of cinema, one of the early greats who exercised a unique artistic vision and wowed audiences with his cinematic trickery. Here, he is an old man, too emotional to even think about the past because it brings back too many painful memories. In a flashback narrative, Melies explains how the war changed everything and how people didn't care for his kind of movies anymore. We watch as he sells his celluloid to factories that meld them down for shoe heels. There is one intensely moving scenes where Hugo and Melies wife watch one of his old films, "Trip to the Moon". This one scene represents so much for each and every person watching the film. It's a masterful scene from Scorsese.

What I love about this film is the humanity. There are no villains here. Sacha Baron Cohen could be called the antagonist, but he's not a bad man and we learn more and more about his character as the film goes on, his fears and his concerns. Scorsese starts the character out as a very simple caricature and then expounds on that and eventually delivers a complex and sympathetic man who really has a good heart. Cohen plays this role quite well and is able to make that transition effectively. The same can be said for Kingsley who is always so solid and once again dazzles us as George Melies. What a delightful performance from the actor.

While watching "Hugo", memories of "Cinema Paradiso" kept popping up in my head. Both films are about the love of film and the transforming power of film and they both toe that line between realism and magic. I love how everyone in the station feels like an extended family, everyone from the flower girl (Emily Mortimer) to the lonely artist (Richard Griffith) -- it took the best parts of "The Terminal" and made them more meaningful.

Not only is "Hugo" one of the best films of the year but also one of the best of Scorsese's later films. It seems so personal for him and his excitement for the material drips off every frame, each frame beautifully sculpted by the always remarkable Robert Richardson. The 3-D elements only enhance the beauty of the film because Scorsese realizes how to best utilize the technology. Of course he does - he's a master film-maker. "Hugo" might not make you laugh and it might not make you cry but it will most definitely make you feel. 10/10.
George Snow #1: George Snow - added 03/25/2014, 06:52 PM
Magnificent movie.

Moretz one of my favorites is making her Off-Broadway debut tonight. I'm going when the show officially opens next month. I'm psyched.
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