movie film review | chris tookey


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  Hugo Review
Tookey's Rating
8 /10
Average Rating
7.72 /10
Asa Butterfield , Chloe Grace Moretz , Ben Kingsley
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Directed by: Martin Scorsese
Written by: John Logan, based on the novel The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick

Released: 2011
Genre: DRAMA
Origin: US
Colour: C
Length: 122

Hugo is a family film that should enchant adults - and children, if theyíre patient and artistically inclined.
Reviewed by Chris Tookey

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The man responsible for Raging Bull, Taxi Driver and GoodFellas has tackled his first family film. Not only that: itís in 3-D, and a must-see for anyone who loves cinema.

You wonít see better production values. Itís by the same supremely talented team that made The Aviator: directed by Martin Scorsese, designed by Dante Ferretti, costumed by Sandy Powell, shot by Robert Richardson, and edited by Thelma Schoonmaker.

From the flamboyant opening shot onwards, it shows the 69 year-old Scorsese in his prime, making a movie he cares about passionately.

Though aspects are evocative of Tim Burton (especially the love of old-fashioned machinery) and Terry Gilliam (notably an affection for the ramshackle side of showbiz), this is recognisably a Scorsese picture, and one of his best.

The film, written by John Logan and based on a Carnegie prize-winning novel by Brian Selznick, is ostensibly a childís adventure about a young orphan called Hugo (Asa Butterfield, pictured right, from The Boy With Striped Pyjamas) struggling to survive within a Parisian railway station, where heís been dragged as child labour by his alcoholic uncle (Ray Winstone) after the untimely death of Hugoís dad (Jude Law).

Abandoned by his uncle to live inside a gigantic clock beneath an ominously large pendulum, Hugo steals in order to survive, which brings him into conflict with one of the stationís stallholders, bad-tempered toymaker Georges (Ben Kingsley), though Hugo manages to make friends with Georgesí orphaned niece, played by Chloe Grace Moretz (pictured left).

Mysteriously, she has a heart-shaped key that matches an automaton Hugoís inherited from his father. How that can be?

To help them find out, the station is awash with talented British character actors including Sacha Baron Cohen as an officious but comically inept railway inspector, Emily Mortimer as the florist he fancies, Christopher Lee cast against type as a friendly bookseller, and an unlikely pair of tentative lovers in Richard Griffiths and Frances de la Tour.

Scorsese enjoys the picturesque quality of his world too much, and the sub-plots are given over-generous screen time, which means that some children may find the film slow and boring. Even grown-ups may find it twee and, well, French. It will go down best with the aesthetically-inclined, and people who adored Les Enfants du Paradis and Amelie.

Comedy is not Scorseseís forte, and the attempts at physical comedy are inadvertently a reminder that silent comedians such as Keaton, Chaplin and Lloyd did this kind of thing better.

Lightness of touch does not come easy to Scorsese, and at over two hours the film is seriously overlong for a child audience. There were moments when Scorsese seems more interested in pitching his movie to mature film buffs, which makes me wonder if the box office returns will match up to its reviews.

And, though I liked Asa Butterfieldís intelligent, understated performance, John Loganís screenplay might have made Hugo himself a bit less bland. A few character flaws would have made him a good deal more interesting. A bit more Artful Dodger than Oliver Twist would have given the screenplay more impetus.

But the film has terrific strengths. Unlike most 3D movies, Hugo was shot using 3D not as a money-making gimmick but as a storytelling device, to add height, depth, humour and intensity.

Another virtue is that the picture shows a fascination with early cinema thatís joyful and infectious. And it has a worthwhile lesson about the importance of preserving old film for future generations, that I know is close to Scorseseís heart.

Hugo has a magic rare in modern movies. This is a Christmas charmer, and easily the most creative live-action movie ever made in 3D. Itís also proof that even a tough guy like Scorsese has a heart - or, at any rate, a heart-shaped key that can reveal wonders.

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