I had the pleasure this afternoon, to be taken on a journey through the life of an extraordinary boy who discovers the wonder of film, the perils and sadness of life, and the adventures and inventions that await us all.
Hugo, a shortened, and to be frank, less magical title, is the first family film from the cinema master Martin Scorsese. And while it has some story/screenplay related issues, Scorsese manages to capture the innocence and imagination of child, showcase his love of cinema, and take the audience on a quite magical ride.
Hugo is the story of a young orhan named Hugo Cabret (Asa Butterfield), who lives in a train station working on the clocks after his inventor/clockmaker father (Jude Law) dies, and his drunk uncle (Ray Winstone) is nowhere to be found. After months of stealing from a local toy shop owner in the station (Sir Ben Kingsley), his father's notebook is stolen. In order to get it back, and work on his father's incredible machine that was left to him, Hugo tries to get the notebook back by befriending the goddaugther of the shopowner named Isabelle (Chloe Grace Moretz), whose necklace unlocks the key to a world of magic, cinema, and invention, and forever links the two. Along the way, there are a host of colorful characters played by a variety of talented British actors including Christopher Lee, Richard Griffiths, Frances de la Tour, and Emily Mortimer), and a particularly villanous station manager played by Sacha Baron Cohen.
Hugo is a magical film experience thanks mostly to the talents of Martin Scorsese. His attention to detail, his passion for both the story, and cinema as an art form, and his incredible collaborations with some of the best technical teams working today, make Hugo a visual and auditory wonder, and along with Avatar, the best use of 3-D I have seen. The film really pops, with wonderful art direction, cinematography, and costume design, all worthy of Oscar consideration, as it Howard Shore's wonderful and fanicful score. The acting is also top notch, and even the child actors manage to pull emotional and dramatic heft. Asa Butterfield has a bright future, and Chloe Grace Moretz proves why she is one of the best young talents working today. It doesn't hurt that Scorsese casted some incredible adult actors, Ben Kingsley, and the woman who plays his wife, Helen McCrory are particularly good, and even Sacha Baron Cohen, who normally annoys me, manages to be a lot more tame, and it really works for him.
Hugo however has two glaring problems. The first is John Logan's script, which has some structural problems, including repeating lines when they are not appropriate, and some scenes that could have simply been left out. Of course, the normally reliable Thelma Schoonmaker, doesn't take enough time to go back and edit out these scenes that should have been left out, and in response there are moments where the film is too slow, and actually drags a little, something I normally don't say about Scorsese films.
But despite its flaws, Scorsese still manages to create a magical experience, especially in the second half, which is almost entirely about early cinema, and it is simply fascinating. While this is supposed to be a family film, it requires a lot of patience. But if you are passionate about film, love a good story with some wonderful acting and incredible technical elements, then I suggest you go and see Hugo. Because when the last frame faded to credits, I was smiling, and if that isn't movie magic, I don't know what is.
Oscar Potential: I definitely think with its great reviews that Hugo could easily get a Best Picture nod, and tons of technical awards are sure to be in its near future. Picture, Director, Actor (Butterfield), Supporting Actor (Kingsley), Supporting Actress (Moretz), Adapted Screenplay, Cinematography, Art Direction, Costume Design, Visual Effects, Film Editing (even though it is honestly not deserved), Sound Editing, Sound Mixing, Makeup