The movie is set in Paris in 1930s and closely follows the storyline of “The Invention of Hugo Cabret” by Brian Selznick and tells the story about a boy who lives on the train station, his father, a robot called automaton and dreams which never really leave us.
This is the work of well-known director Martin Scorsese, which is notably different from his other works. The Departed, The Shutter Island, The Aviator, Bands of New-York: those are the most famous ones and they have one feature in common, they are not movies for kids or fairytales. Scorsese’s choice of genre for the next movie, Hugo, caught me by surprise; I definitely didn’t expect him to take on the Christmas tale. I had a bad feeling about it (I am a great fan of the 3 movies mentioned above), and I am so glad that I turned out to be wrong. The genius of Scorsese shines in whatever movie he decides to make.
Straight to the verdict: I have watched this movie twice, and I found it to be the best movie I have seen in 2011. However, I believe that Hugo is the victim of bad PR and marketing campaign. On one hand, whenever a casual film goer hears “Scorsese’s film”, he or she will almost immediately think of action or thriller. On the other hand, the film trailer presents Hugo as the bedtime story for children 5-12, nice and cuddly Christmas story, during which the parents of a child can take a quick nap in the theatre.
Well, the movie is neither, and these two considerations might have actually scared away those people who might love the movie most: people who love multi-layered movies that make you look at yourself and to project some of the ideas seen on your own life. On the outer layer, Hugo is pretty simple: little easy story, the boy named Hugo Cabret tries to fix the automaton, and in the process finds its creator. If you dig a little bit deeper, you will find a story about a man who cannot find his place in the world and who suffers in denial because of it. If you dig even deeper, you will see that Scorsese made the ode to entire cinematograph and its first visionaries in particular. Scorsese sympathizes with the main idea of the book: movies are made to carry people away to other, usually imaginary worlds; they are made to bring your dreams into real world; they are magic in essence! Only film-loving Scorsese could deliver this message powerfully, and he is up to expectations. Needless to say that people who expected light fairytale or action movie are disappointed.
The work of Scorsese is difficult to overestimate. Every single bit in this movie is necessary and fits into the bigger picture perfectly, creating the right atmosphere of magic and wizardry. To prove the idea that movies are made to carry us away, Scorsese simply creates another world, the world that feels like comfortable and enjoyable to live in. Huge clock mechanisms that Hugo winds up, shining Paris outside the train station, small toy shop – everything works to create this magical feeling. Even 3D, which I generally don’t like, does not feel alien to the movie but rather works for the same purpose – to deliver the idea. As I mentioned in my Best of 2011 post, 3D in Hugo makes me think that Scorsese was watching all the tasteless films which rely on 3D for their success (Transformers 3 being the No1 tasteless film of those) and decided to show how it should be done. By the way, he featured in the movie as the photographer:
Even if I stop praising the genius of Scorsese, there is still a lot to talk about. The cast, for example. The biggest discovery for me was the brilliant work of Sasha Baron Cohen as Station Inspector, the villain of the show. Fantastic accent, jokes, his smile, after all – he proved to everyone that he is a great actor (just in time before his Dictator). Chloë Grace Moretz as Isabelle is memorable mainly because of her phrase “Don’t you like books?!”, spelled out with conviction and passion, making you a bit nervous, forcing to remember when was the last time you opened a book. Ben Kingsley as Georges Méliès, Asa Butterfield as Hugo, Jude Law as Hugo’s father – everybody performed to their best, delivering stunning and breathtaking show.
VERDICT: Masterpiece by Martin Scorsese starring Ben Kingsley and Sasha Baron Cohen, serious multi-layered reflection on the purpose and the history of cinematograph. The best movie I have seen in 2011.
WATCH: if you love cinema just as I do.