Hugo (2011)

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Movie Review written by: Born Movie Reviews
RT Critics Rating: 9.4/10

Born Movie Reviews' Rating: 10/10 (Full Score)

HUGO (2011) - Martin Scorsese

Makeup, costumes, and set designs. Lighting, cinematography, and atmosphere. Foreign movies bear an elegance in which we as audience members and young filmmakers can fully appreciate as true cinematic experiences. Without a doubt, storyline is one of the most crucial elements of a film. Despite that necessity, movies from foreign nations strive from art direction and characterization. The crowd breathes the air of the scenery, an act that Hollywood these days no longer give room to. The two words "Art direction" is the difference between witnessing the bright beautiful world of Paris and living the extravagant paradise. In many ways, the power of foreign cinema is superior to American films, let alone CGI-loaded eye candy. Five minutes into Martin Scorsese's Hugo, I was sincerely spellbound when the first line of dialogue was spoken. It was in English.

Before we were given any such character introductions, Scorsese first invites us into the world of an average train station in Paris. We witness our average passenger-goers wandering throughout the brightly lit building. Flowers glow a mysterious sunlight, absorbed from the rays through such clear windows. Men and women meet each other and become emotionally attached. Halt at a frame and the image looks identical to a French magazine, well-constructed cinematography. Behind all this fascination is a young orphan boy named Hugo (Asa Butterfield). One says that it is the actions of a man that define him. The first action we see from this child is attempting to steal a mechanical mouse from an invention store owner (Ben Kingsley). What we presume is Hugo is a thief, especially after being revealed by Kingsley's character that this was not the first incident. During investigation, the owner finds a little book from the boy's pocket, containing sketches of what appears to be an automaton. In response, the book was confiscated. Hugo, suddenly desperate, asks for it back. Before the 30-minute rule of interest grabbing, the film has already captured our attention. What appears to be a naughty child may turn out to be something more.

Hugo is an intelligent boy on a quest: A quest to unlock a secret that his deceased father (Jude Law) left for him. What he does not know is that this journey will transform all those around him, along with himself. During his attempt to retrieve his book, Hugo meets Isabelle (Chloe Moretz), a well-educated open-minded girl with a big heart, and from that point on, the very innocence of this screen duo carries the movie on its own.

Butterfield, who I have never seen on screen before, has perfected his role as determined Hugo. Similar to Spielberg, Martin Scorsese uses the power of child emotions to deliver to the audience. Hugo, a headstrong character, can only be portrayed by a headstrong actor himself and Asa Butterfield has done so fluently. One cannot help but discover the secret along with him and see his passion, a child with a heart of an adult.

Charming Moretz, who was previously seen in Vaughn's Kick-Ass and Reeves' Let Me In, comes to portray a book-loving girl who's both superb in vocabulary as well as charisma. In spite of her reading classically acclaimed novels, her personality bonds with Hugo for her love of "adventures," even though she never really had one. Hugo connects to her by introducing her to the world of movies. The chemistry of the leads was the heart of this piece. Always they are looking for something exciting as they slowly move closer to the secret. If Scorsese's film is a beautiful statue, then the lead performances and presence are the gold polish that make the statue shine.

Ben Kingsley was perhaps best known for his role as Gandhi in Attenborough's Gandhi and his supporting role of Itzhak Stern from Spielberg's Schindler's List. After his stardom, Kingsley has continued to participate in several movies, but with extremely supporting roles in which he is unable to stand out. These films included Prince of Persia and Shutter Island. But here, with the help of Martin Scorsese, Kingsley's presence in the film was mesmerizing. The film triumphed with the innocence of kids as well as the innocence of elders, and Scorsese has combined both elements brilliantly. The fact that Kingsley did not receive a nomination for Supporting Actor is one of the biggest misfires of movies this year, up to par with The Dark Knight failing to receive a Best Picture nomination in 2008.

With the greatest art direction of this year and an excellent cast, Hugo succeeded with one more thing and probably the most important: its tribute to the magic of cinema. The very innocence of the characters invite us in to the subjects it touches on. Hugo pays an immeasurable amount of respect to the history of movies, as if Scorsese himself is thanking the Lumière Brothers for inventing film. The film was a mirror of Scorsese and possibly the one closest to his heart as of now, similar to E.T. being Spielberg's closest work. Scorsese has been given all of the resources he needed, like the character Hugo, and has made a film masterpiece about -- film masterpieces. The sight of the classic "Harold Lloyd holding onto a clock handle" scene on the big screen was remarkable. Above all cinematic films shown such as The Arrival of a Train and Exit From the Lumière Factory, the film that ties itself into Hugo the most is A Trip to the Moon, one of classic filmmaker Georges Méliès' most notable pieces. Again, the sight of the ship crashing onto the moon on the big screen was captivating to watch, intriguing to the average audience member, but astonishing for filmmakers and film critics.

Hugo is powerful and demanding of being selected by the National Film Registry. In a few years, it will have its place. It is emotional, as heartwarming as it is well-crafted. To say that Scorsese's new film is exquisite is not enough. Who knew that the man who brought us Taxi DriverRaging BullThe Last Temptation of Christ, and Goodfellas can make something truly light-hearted, a real antithesis of his original style as a filmmaker? Throughout his career, I was convinced that Martin Scorsese, despite his successful movies, is a one-note director, making movies one specific way like David Fincher, Christopher Nolan, or M. Night Shyamalan. I stand corrected. Hugo reaches to us with its characters, a director's first priority. Fluently, everything else naturally combined to form a big picture, call it a delicious cake with beautiful decorations. Hugo is extraordinary, wonderful, and superb. It is a work of art that fascinates the mind and touches the heart. It is a creation of outstanding artistry, a piece unique in its own type, let alone a Martin Scorsese film. It is a portrait of genius, wisdom, and splendor, a masterpiece that deserves an annual viewing and finally, a full score from this young film critic.

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