Hugo (2011) – Film Review
Director: Martin Scorsese
Cast: Asa Butterfield, Ben Kingsley, Sacha Baron Cohen
by Chris Dabbs
Watching Hugo reminds me of being a child, looking into the lens of a kaleidoscope for the very first time. At first it is all vaguely familiar nonsense; distorting shapes and pretty colours. Then, after taking some time to twist and turn the colourful dial, you start to experience the magical bombardment of gear-clunking gadgets and cool Parisian backdrops. Scorsese is helping you find the perfect snapshot. That is what it is like, gazing into the unusual, steampunk-esque world of Hugo, the orphan boy who lives in a clock.
This film is a beautiful patchwork of heart-warming characters. It is a testament to the power of cinema. Some say it lacks pace. I must admit, for the first 10 minutes I have my doubts as to what direction the film is heading. What I don’t realise is that the film is something of a machine in itself. It tick-tocks its way into action and layers the plot masterfully. It tells the story one frame at a time. And it rebels against the modern tradition of spoon-feeding audiences with dull clichés and formulaic writing. Instead it devotes time to the wonderful expressions from a highly talented and superbly well-suited cast.
“Great deal of love and attention”
The major success of the film for me is that the director clearly respects and acknowledges the intelligence of his young target audience. He wastes no time patronising us with grand explanations or long-winding dialogue. There is no ‘hey, look at me, I’m a film and I need your attention’ melodrama in this movie. Hugo is much more an Amelie than a Desperate Housewife. We experience the orphan’s life as a scrapbook instead of a stereotype. In this way, the film delivers to us a series of characters that are instantly recognisable and deservedly memorable.
Taking everything into account, it’s clear from the off that there is a great deal of love and attention in this film. The artistry of the film-making is outstanding. It made me think of someone piecing together an old broken family photo, piece by piece, as the cameras drift from scene to scene. The long-distance shots showing Hugo enjoying the amusing happenings of strangers, the altered voices during interruptions and the tasteful zoom-ins to character profiles has me highly engaged and, by the end, feeling strangely festive.