Movie Review: Hugo

By Stephen Rebello

A simple, solid, heart-tugging film from director Martin Scorsese.

Director: Martin Scorsese

MPAA Rating: PG

Studio: Paramount Pictures

If you can’t manage to sit through a film that isn’t dripping with snark, cynicism or irony then Hugo, directed by Martin Scorsese, may not be for you. Adapted for the screen by John Logan from a book by Brian Selznick, the movie, set in the glory of Paris in the early ‘30s, is about a young fugitive orphan (Asa Butterfield) who secretly makes his home high above a grand train station. There he mourns the loss of his father (Jude Law), tends the station’s ornate clocks and in his spare time proves to be an ace at both tinkering with gadgets and thieving to stay alive. Hounded by an officious, hopelessly inept station guard (Sacha Baron Cohen) and nabbed for stealing tools and spare parts by a sad older man who runs an antique stall (Ben Kingsley). The orphan manages to find a friend and partner in adventure in the antique seller’s bookish, lovely niece (Chloe Grace Moretz).

It’s a simple, solid, heart-tugging story and what a joy. Gloriously directed by Scorsese in full fever-dream mode, the film has been shot – and thought-out – in majestic, best ever 3-D. From its first frames, Hugo is rapturously beautiful to look at, richly imaginative, constantly inventive and deeply and mysteriously emotional. With the camera swooping and gliding through exquisite magical environments, with its cast giving such open, emotional performances (especially Kingsley), with Howard Shore’s musical score suggesting so much, this is the most personal, rhapsodic, drunk-on-cinema film that self-avowed film lover Scorsese has made in too long. Hugo is so filled with Scorsese’s reverence for early films and filmmakers that, finally, it explodes into a love song to the power of classic movies to make us dream and feel.  Among true film connoisseurs, there shouldn’t be a dry eye in the house. Like The Artist, Hugo is that rare film that can send you soaring if only you’re willing to give yourself over to it. It makes most movies aimed at families seem crass and tinny. It is also, as time should prove, a masterwork.


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