Now Showing at: most major theaters.
Review by: Larry Thomas
Every so often, something magical happens at the movies. In the current climate of pandering to the lowest common denominator, that doesn’t happen nearly enough. And sometimes such magic comes from a most unexpected source. I’m referring to Martin Scorsese’s Hugo, a beautifully crafted, heartfelt film that’s among the best of his career. Although Scorsese is noted for gritty, violent urban dramas, Hugo is a complete 180 for him, and a real cinematic treat for us.
Hugo is a PG-rated, family-friendly tale, but is not what would get tagged as a “kid’s” movie…not in the same sense that you might use a film a babysitter. Hugo is a twelve-year-old orphan who goes to live with his drunken uncle in the bowels of the Paris train station in the late 1920s. He teaches Hugo how to wind, and care for, all the clocks in the station. Since Hugo and his father were mechanically adept, this comes naturally to the boy. When the uncle wanders off, Hugo decides that if he keeps the clocks running, no one will care if he stays there. However, to continue his passion for tinkering, as well as to feed himself, Hugo must resort to also becoming adept at light-fingered larceny.
As in any good cinematic outing, Hugo crosses paths with a variety of fascinating characters, which are personified by some outstanding performers. Ben Kingsley is the gruff old man who owns a small toy store in the station. He knows Hugo is stealing spare parts from his shop and is determined to make him stop. His goddaughter is an inquisitive fourteen-year-old who is a confirmed bookworm with personality to spare. She is played by Chloe Grace-Moretz, who gets better with every film in which she appears. Sacha Baron Cohen is the resident gendarme at the station, and while the character is somewhat humorous, it is Baron’s best performance ever. Cohen’s character, like Kingsley’s, has deep rooted emotional scars that he tries to repress within himself.
Hugo is newcomer Asa Butterfield, who is fine in the role and will likely have a good career in his future. But there’s another character that makes the film come alive… 3-D. Usually, the dimensional photographic process is used as a gimmick, to startle or surprise. In Hugo, the 3-D is such an integral part of the cinematic process that it’s completely captivating and dazzling. The shots, sets, and design of the film are all crafted to make the most of 3-D.
Also seen in smaller roles are Christopher Lee, Ray Winstone, Emily Mortimer, and Jude Law, as well as several unfamiliar faces who are equally impressive. The terrific composer Howard Shore, who scored everything from Silence of the Lambs to Lord of the Rings, contributes an almost wall-to-wall musical accompaniment that is among the best he’s ever done.
The film’s climax reveals Scorsese’s passion in life: film, and film preservation, and is one of the most moving, emotional finales I’ve seen in ages. In fact, Hugo is so good you may find yourself in need of a Kleenex or two.
And when you go see Hugo, you absolutely must see it in 3-D. When comparing the quality of all the 3-D movies made during the current use of the dimensional process, Hugo is the victor.
The PG-rated Hugo is now showing in semi-limited, but accessible, release, and is the must-see film of the holiday season.