Film Review – Hugo

Hugo (PG)

Directed by: Martin Scorsese

Starring: Asa Butterfield, Chloe Grace Moretz, Sacha Baron Cohen, Ben Kingsley

Four and a half stars

Review by: Julian Wright

It can be easy to lose faith in film making when Hollywood seems to be more interested in churning out money makers rather than stories and characters with substance that linger. With so many soulless, special effects driven, one-liner laden blockbusters, sometimes we need a nice little reminder of the power of films and why we love movies in the first place.

Enter legendary director Martin Scorsese, who up until now, has often delved into the darker side of life in his career with Taxi Driver and Goodfellas. But with Hugo, he has held back on the graphic violence and vulgar language to bring us a new, lighter side of his artistic ability.  Catering to a whole new demographic here, such as children and families, rather than film goers with strong stomachs, Scorsese celebrates film making with a sense of adventure.

Hugo (Asa Butterfield) is an orphan who lives at a Paris train station in the 1930s. He was close to his father, who was killed in a fire leaving Hugo to live with his alcoholic and slave driving uncle who keeps the clocks at the station running on time.

Hugo keeps up a project he and his father began, which is to fix an automaton (found abandoned and collecting dust in a museum vault) and make it work once again. There is just one missing piece – a key in the shape of a heart – which he finds hanging from the neck of his new-found friend Isabelle (Chloe Grace Moretz).

The young pair try to solve the mystery of who created the machine (all the while trying to evade the station guard played with relish by Sacha Baron Cohen) which leads them to make all sorts of fascinating discoveries about the pioneering days of cinema.

To go from a heartfelt, moving story about a boy trying to maintain the one connection he has with his deceased father to a tip of the hat to cinema and film making sounds like quite a leap, and at times it is. The link between the two is a bit of a stretch but the journey is half the fun and it is a joyous journey these two young ones take. And by the end, it wont just be the hard-core cinephiles that will be giddy with nostalgia.

While not quite as viscerally thrilling as child driven adventure films such as The Goonies, or more recently, Super 8, Scorsese has his finger on the pulse of what draws in and fascinates an audience. His sweeping camera movements and overhead shots not only help tell the story but allow the 3D technology to be used to its highest potential. He has also created one of the most detailed worlds seen on-screen, from the costumes and props to the sets – we are utterly immersed in this world.

Go and see Hugo and be reminded why film, which one character mentions was expected to be a short-lived fad, has lasted so long as one of the major storytelling devices and continues to have the power to inspire, fascinate, surprise and awe us.

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