Firstly I will say that I am utterly ashamed of myself for not having watched this film sooner. It is quite simply brilliant.
The story has quite a nice balance of fiction and non fiction, adding adventure around the edges of the career of Georges Méliès, who it a genius of cinema and one that I have the up most respect for. The film is centered around a young boy who lives within the walls of a train station in 1930s Paris who is searching for the mystery surrounding his dead father whilst questioning his own position in the world. Whilst being largely based around this adventure the story ties in nicely with the history of cinema and Méliès himself. It is an exciting adventure to witness but also an insightful one if like me you take an active interest in films.
The film has a brilliant cast, which it may of course be star studded with a lot of small roles for big names but I rather liked it. It helped to present one of the most important messages behind the film; the value of films and entertainment. Young Asa Butterfield is very good as the title role, showing the spark of an individual who is rather small in a large world. Ben Kingsley manages to be both quiet and magical at the same time to give a real sense that he is a genuine genius in human form. One of the most surprising roles for me personally was Sacha Baron Cohen who played the station inspector who is constantly try to find Hugo and stop his troublesome behaviour. His character reminded me somewhat of the child catcher in ‘Chitty Chitty Bang Bang’ but then had a hint of the theatricality that his character in ‘Sweeney Todd’ displayed, but overall he was very good and proved to be both a creepy and witty screen presence. In addition I must say it was quite emotional to see the film because it was one of the three last films Richard Griffiths appeared in before passing away earlier this year. A truly inspirational actor who was fantastic in every role, and the delicacy he displayed in this film in particular showed his ability once again.
In the past I have already talked of how much I admire Scorsese’s work and I do not feel that ‘Hugo’ was a let down, his directing was very good indeed. It was slightly different for Scorsese because it had a U certificate from the BBFC and is clearly aimed at a younger audience but I think it shows just how talented he is as a director to be able to make a film that is different from his other projects. It is less gritty and hard hitting and more adventurous and smooth edged which is by no means a bad thing. I will admit that visually the film is stunning, the sequences Scorsese has shot are very impressive but I dislike the fact he shot the film in 3D. I know it’s meant to be an adventure film that is visually pleasing and exciting but I feel that this was accomplished perfectly in 2D without needing the extra element added. He is someone who understands film and has crafted himself perfectly to the industry so I feel that the sudden move towards 3D was unneeded and somewhat undermined the key message of the value of entertainment. The film tries to present the idea that film is something we can all enjoy because of how creative and imaginative it is regardless of how technically advanced it is, so shooting the film in 3D was a bit of a u-turn. Nonetheless it was fantastically directed, with the attention to detail being balanced perfectly when it comes to the shots of clockwork machinery and toys. It was artistic I really liked how Scorsese focused on certain elements.
The themes of the film also meant quite a lot to me throughout, with the main character questioning a lot about himself. His motivation to find the secrets behind his dead father were very interesting because it shows the true value of family and those we love around us. He also questions a lot about himself and how he fits in to the world, with one of his best lines showing an optimistic attitude that a young lad should have towards life. However for me the important themes were those linked to cinema and how much it means to people. The characters showed their true passion for film and how it is a source of inspiration for them, which is exactly how I feel when I watch a brilliant piece of cinema. The links to Méliès’ 1902 masterpiece ‘A Trip To The Moon’ show the value of cinema and the appreciation we have for such a complex art form. I talked in my last blog post of how much I like films that are about film, and ‘Hugo’ fits very high on the list in terms of reaching my expectations. It was brilliant to see a film that shows the true value of cinema and gives credit to one of the most influential humans to ever have lived; Georges Méliès.
Overall I would give the film a solid four stars out of five, it was a genuine pleasure to watch because of the sense of adventure and the value of cinema that is solid throughout the film. It’s not quite perfect but remains one of the best films I have seen recently, impressing me for a number of different reasons. I would recommend this film to anybody, but particularly those interested in film, you may very well learn something new from it. I’m glad I have finally watched this film but I am equally disappointed at how long it took me to do so. To end this review I feel it only fitting to leave you with my favourite line from the film (mentioned above) in which Hugo himself explains his thoughts on who he is:
“I’d imagine the whole world was one big machine. Machines never come with any extra parts, you know. They always come with the exact amount they need. So I figure, if the entire world was one big machine, I couldn’t be an extra part. I had to be here for some reason”