Film Review: Hugo

Martin Scorsese’s Hugo is likely to beguile audiences with its tale of wonderment. The director’s love of the moving image and his gift for filmmaking shine as brightly as ever.

A young boy who lives in the walls for a Paris train station, Hugo spends his days trying to fix the automaton his father found, whilst hiding from the station inspector. When a shopkeeper confiscates his notebook, Hugo is determined to get it back. Enlisting the help of a new found friend, Hugo attempts to find out more about the automaton…

Based on Brian Selznick’s book The Adventures of Hugo Cabret, Scorsese’s film works on multiple levels. At first glance, it is an enchanting family adventure. The comedy in Hugo is also a highlight, giving the film a suitably light touch. Finally, it is Scorsese’s paean to early cinema and its mechanics.

The film offers viewers unfamiliar with early cinema an enchanting journey through cinema. Those more acquainted  should enjoy the various references and allusions to film in the early twentieth century. The message of restoration is laid on a little thick for those aware of the director’s interest and contribution to this field. Nonetheless, it is a message as good as any.

The narrative is weaved to create a sense of mystery. The reveals in Hugo are finely executed. It is ambiguous as to what type of adventure will unfold, and whether any type of fantasy will manifest itself. This sense of uknown works well to retain the viewer’s attention.

Scorsese’s direction is at times sublime. This is particularly true of the camerwork in Hugo‘s opening sequences. The art direction in the film is superb. The Paris train station looks authentic for the its 1930s setting, yet retains a fantastic aura. Howard Shore’s score is also a treat, suiting the tone and the look of the film incredibly well.

Performances in Hugo are good overall. Asa Butterfield does a great job as the title character, bringing a certain charm to the role. Ben Kingsley offers the necessary presence, while Chloe Moretz has good chemistry with Butterfield. Sasha Baron Cohen brings much of the film’s humour as the station inspector, a role seemingly made for the actor.

Hugo is a rare live action film well worth viewing in 3D. Scorsese has proven he is just as adept in the family film genre as he is in his earlier, adult-orientated work.

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