By: Logan Pierce, editor-in-chief
“Hugo” is Martin Scorsese’s first PG-rated film in 18 years, and while appealing to general audiences, Scorsese has made one of his most personal films to date.
The opening scene of “Hugo” evokes memories of Scorsese’s iconic “steady cam” shot from “Goodfellas.” The camera is at eye level, as it briskly pans through a 1930s Parisian train station, with everyone milling about.
Asa Butterfield portrays the film’s protagonist, Hugo, an orphan who lives in the cavernous station; by accessing a maze of hidden passages, Hugo remains unnoticed by the public, while stealing food from the various shops to survive.
Several minor characters have their stories play out with few words, as Hugo observes them from the safety of his clock tower.
Characters with depth
With few exceptions, each character in the film has a story arc. All the characters are relatable. Even the train station inspector who, on the surface, appeared to be mere comic relief, is given some pathos and depth of character.
The inspector is played by Sacha Baron Cohen, of “Borat” fame; and serves as the antagonistic comic foil. His inabilities prevent him from being a believable threat to Hugo. This works out for the best, because as the film progresses the inspector’s story is fleshed out and we empathize with him.
No extra parts
After the death of his father, played by Jude Law in a flashback, Hugo is left with a rusted clockwork automaton found by his father. It being their last project together, Hugo is driven to repair and refurbish the robot.
“Machines never come with any extra parts in them,” Hugo said, “They always come with the exact amount they need. So I figured, if the entire world is one big machine; I couldn’t be an extra part. I had to be here for some reason.”
“Hugo” is a treat for anyone who appreciates the efforts of early filmmakers. Ben Kingsley plays Georges Méliès, a pioneer of film special effects. Kingsley delivers a powerful performance that elicits both fear and empathy.
A blast from the past
“Hugo” features scenes from Méliès various films. Watching the iconic scene from “The Journey to the Moon,” where the rocket hits the man in the moon is something best experienced in 3D. The film emphasizes the need for movie preservation and delivers a message that one is never obsolete when they know their purpose.
In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter regarding “Hugo,” James Cameron said, “It is magical to watch. This is absolutely the best 3D cinematography I’ve ever seen.” Scorsese uses 3D, not as a gimmick, but as a means of enhancing the magic of movies.