When you think of a Martin Scorsese film, you might think of movies that feature guys getting wacked, a made man that eventually wakes up sleeping with the fishes. After all, several of Scorsese’s most significant films were based on the mob life and the people who lived it. His latest film Hugo is the direct opposite of many of the films that he’s known for.
Hugo Cabret (Asa Butterfield) is a young orphaned boy who secretly lives in the walls of a Paris train station by himself. Hugo’s days consist of maintaining clocks in the station, stealing food and repairing an automaton that his late father (Jude Law) once found at a museum. He also steals supplies to fix the automaton, but one day gets caught by the owner of a toy store named Papa Georges (Ben Kingsley). As punishment, the owner takes a book that Hugo uses as directions for fixing his automaton.
That book is one of the only things that he has left as a memory of his father and he needs it for that reason as well. Knowing that he must get the book back in order to finish what he and his father started, Hugo follows Georges and eventually meets his god-daughter Isabelle (Chloë Grace Moretz). From there, Hugo befriends Isabelle and the two embark on an adventure that will change their lives forever.
Hugo is a film that looks good in terms of its visuals. That is readily apparent in the opening scenes that are shown. Those scenes lay down the groundwork that allows the audience to see how Hugo came into the situation that he’s in throughout the film. Not only does it give us a glimpse of his back story, but it also shows off where he lives by way of aerial shots of the train station he lives in and its surrounding environment.
Outside of the opening sequence, the first half of the film was just okay and at certain points it seemed like Sacha Baron Cohen was the only person that was going to bring any real liveliness to the table.The first half was too slow and it definitely made the movie seem like it was longer than it should have been. The characters weren’t special in any way and they didn’t have a lot of energy. I assume it was because of the somber and subdued nature of the film, but I would’ve expected more positivity from a film that’s supposed to be targeting kids.
Despite being one of the film’s bright spots, Sacha Baron Cohen wasn’t as funny as I would’ve expected him to be. He played what was supposed to be a bumbling station inspector out to catch orphans and lawbreakers running around the station. You would think that these on-screen moments would bring laughs, but those laughs didn’t come anywhere near as often as they should have. He did what he could with what he had, but the material obviously wasn’t good for comedic purposes.
As average as the first half of the film was, the second half of the film was just the opposite. Once we finally understand what’s going on, Hugo gets really interesting. While the characters are virtually the same, everything picks up due to great storytelling. They use this part of the movie to try to create a magical image of the history of film.
It ends up looking like a mature version of a Disney production as we learn what the actual meaning is behind the movie. If the first half was as good as the second I probably would have given it a much higher score. The quality of the second half hides the lack of energy many of the actors had by bringing life and personality to the story.
Despite its slow start and the fact that the movie was supposed to take place in France, but everyone had British accents, Hugo was a good movie. That was primarily because of a great second half that allowed it to avoid mediocrity. While he didn’t fail here, I do hope to see Scorsese go back to doing what he does best. Making movies for mature audiences.
Director: Martin Scorsese
Chloë Grace Moretz
Sacha Baron Cohen
Film Length: 126 minutes
Release Date: November 23, 2011
Distributor: Paramount Pictures