“Set in 1930s Paris, an orphan who lives in the walls of a train station is wrapped up in a mystery involving his late father and an automaton.”
Directed by: Martin Scorsese, Rated: PG, 126 minutes
Well, folks. I’ve done it. In the last 366 days I have watched 366 movies and have written 366 reviews. It’s a feat I never thought I’d actually accomplish and now that’s all said and done, I have to say I’m pretty damn proud of myself. It hasn’t been easy, by any means, and there were some days I wanted to give up. But, all of you readers have kept me going as has my love for the art that is cinema. In this past year, I have only found greater appreciation in movies and have been given even more room to run with that obsession. This blog has become an outlet for my passion and I’m so glad to have had all of you with me for the ride. It’s been one hell of an experience I will never forget and while I have new plans for the new year, I will always remember “that one time I was crazy enough to review a new movie every day for an entire year”. What lays ahead is still a mystery to all of you, but I want to promise you that I will continue to deliver quality reviews and content that brings all of you back for more. While the formatting and mission for the site may change the slightest, my love for everything related to the movies will only get stronger than ever. Thank you all for following, reading, and sharing your own opinions and stories with me. And to all of you new friends and those I have yet to meet, my name is Nick, and I’m a absolutely obsessed with movies. Moving on…
As for my final review of the film, I figured it was fitting to watch Hugo, Martin Scorsese’s quiet little masterpiece about the history and magic of film. In a day and age like today, where movies are taken for granted as the art forms they are, it’s refreshing and rewarding to have something like Hugo come along. It’s a reminder of how far we have come as not only filmmakers but movie-goers and is a humbling experience to see how much it has all changed. In the beginning, movies were more about magic than anything else. A new format of telling a story captured the imaginations and the hearts of thousands and revolutionized how we perceive things entirely. I can only imagine what it must have been like to be one of the first people to see Arrival of a Train. I can only assume I would be as shocked as that initial audience and darted out of the way in fright fearing that the train was actually coming out of the screen and into the auditorium. I can only wonder what it would have been like to take part in Georges Melies’ Trip to the Moon, going on a journey no one had even thought was possible at the time. With Hugo, Scorsese takes none of these moments for granted and recreates them for the modern audience.
Hugo Cabret (Asa Butterfield) is a young orphan who lives and works in a train station, winding the clocks and making sure everything runs as smoothly as possible from behind the scenes. He keeps to himself while avoiding the sleezy station inspector (Sacha Baron Cohen), who loves bringing little street urchins to the orphanage. All Hugo has are the tools and gadgets his father left behind, which includes a small robotic humanoid called an automaton. Unfortunately, the creation does not work and Hugo struggles in finding the missing piece to get it functional. In his day to day routine in the station, Hugo befriends a young girl named Isabelle (Chloe Grace Moretz) who has her own obsessions in the books she constantly reads and quotes. She so desperately seeks to go on an adventure on her own and realizes that Hugo may be the way to do so. Isabelle’s god-father, Georges (Ben Kingsley) thinks that Hugo is up to no good and it’s only later that Hugo discovers that Georges has secrets of his own. He’s a man conflicted with his position in life, as his former love and passion have ceased to be as important and as a grumpy old shell of the man he was, finds any sense of adventure to be uninspiring and wasteful. Thus, as Hugo and Isabelle discover the secrets behind the automaton, they unravel secrets of the past that surround Georges and the magical beginnings of the movies.
Hugo is a beautiful little film that only inspires. Through the eyes of an innocent child, we find the magic in movies again. It’s a fairy tale, of sorts, that fits to both the young and the old, and is quite remarkable in its execution. Scorsese is a man known for violent, thought-provoking films, and seeing him tackle a PG family film is not only refreshing, but a testament to the man’s talents. It’s a movie that is beautifully filmed and thought-out and pays plenty of homage to the films of the past, from Georges Melies himself, to Buster Keaton and Charlie Chaplin. There is also a particularly cute subplot, involving the romance between two other regulars of the train station that plays out in its own silent-film-esque way. Very few (if any, that I can remember) words are exchanged between the two, but instead we watch their facial expressions and actions tell the story. While I don’t find myself to be the most knowledgeable when it comes to classic films (I have a solid foundation that I hope to build upon in 2013), I can only imagine what other references Hugo has that fly well over my head. I’m sure there are plenty and with that, allows Hugo to be revisited over and over.
Along with the terrific story, Hugo packs one hell of a cast. The young Asa Butterfield (Hugo) astounds as the young orphan and as he comes to realize that there’s more magic in the world that the gears and gadgets he tinkers with, as well as realizing the secrets of his father’s past, we completely feel for him. He’s the ultimate pint-sized hero and his innocence and splendor bring out the child in all of us. Of course, the star of the film is Ben Kingsley who channels one of the founding father’s of cinema in Georges Miles. He’s a heartbroken man that’s lost his passion and his films over time, and thinks that his time in the world is no more and that his creations are things of the past, never to be appreciated or shared in again. He’s most certainly the strongest emotional character in the film and as Hugo helps inspire him and remind him that his old films are things of legend, Kingsley slowly comes around. Sacha Baron Cohen provides a more comical relief to the picture (surprise!), but does so with a new sense about him, never offending or going too over-the-top. As for the supporting cast, there are plenty of other recognizable faces that never really distract, nor come to much fruition but instead give character and life to the train station that is our hero’s home.
Now, as much as Hugo tells a story about film, it also tells a story of magic and wonder. You do not need to be the biggest movie lover in the world to appreciate it’s simplicity and wonder and will even find yourself more curious about the history of cinema than anything else. It’s a film that inspires you to create, think, and enjoy the simple things, be it the relationships we have with one another or a short two minute silent film that takes us places we never thought possible. Scorsese brings his usual style to the film, with his attention to detail (the sets, costumes, scenery etc. are all beautiful), and his skills behind the camera only highlight the little things even further. Instead of setting out to tell us a story of the past, Scorsese recreates it in a 1930s Paris train station. We’re transported to a time where it all begin, with him as our captain, and his knowledge, curiosity, and respect rub off on us in ways you could never imagine. Hugo is vastly different than anything Scorsese has done before, yet it feels to be his most personal film to date, and when we are given the chance to share in that affection, we can only walk away fulfilled. Best put by Georges Melies at the film’s conclusion, “My friends, I address you all tonight as you truly are; wizards, mermaids, travelers, adventurers, magicians… Come and dream with me.” It’s that final thought that rings most true and Mr. Scorsese, I am honored to go on this adventure with you.
Instead of my usual conclusion, I want to end this review, as well as this wonderful year with A Trip to the Moon, the incredible film that paved way for everything I was able to watch this year and more. Enjoy.