Sean K. Cureton

The Best Feature Film of 2011

In Movie Reviews: 2011 on December 29, 2011 at 4:22 pm

Theatrical Poster


Hugo
4 out of 4 stars
Directed by Martin Scorsese

The idea of critically acclaimed director Martin Scorsese directing a film adaptation of a youth oriented novel sounds ridiculous on paper. On film, however, it may be one of the best ideas that Hollywood has ever conceived.

Based on the novel by writer and illustrator Brian Selznick, Hugo is a film about a young boy named Hugo, played by the young actor Asa Butterfield, whose life as an orphan in a Paris train station in the1930’s leads him to meet the legendary silent film maker Georges Melies, played by Ben Kingsley, among many other notable characters. The way the film presents the story is exceptional, as Scorsese is able to very slowly introduce us to each of the characters involved, and grants each of these characters enough screen time to resolve each of their individual story arcs. In many ways, Hugo feels less like a film, and more like a well-constructed novel, which is a delightful surprise.

Hugo is also one of the most atypical films of Scorsese’s career, given its child oriented material, and its almost magical elements and themes. Instead of directing another gritty and realistic film, Scorsese seems to be calling on all of his experience as a director to craft a film this time that is vastly different in its look and feel than anything he has ever done before. It is definitely not a change of directing style to be taken lightly, but Scorsese’s experience with filmmaking allows Hugo to look easy and unhindered by any unnecessary directing choices, which is a feat that simply could not be done unless a director like Scorcese had made this film.

Hugo is also a great film on film, in that with this film, Scorsese has been given the unusual position and privilege to pay homage to silent film director Georges Melies, and with him all of cinema. When watching Hugo, the viewer is not only being engaged with the film on the screen, but all prior films that helped to inform its production. In other words, Hugo is not only a great movie in and of itself, but is a movie that represents all the great movies that have come before it, and will come after it.

Finally, Hugo boats one of the best ensemble casts of any film this reviewer has seen in a long time. From Ben Kingsley’s excellent portrayal of the director Melies, to Sacha Baron Cohen’s turn as a train station cop intent on placing every orphan he sees, including Hugo, in an orphanage, as well as Asa Butterfield’s wonderful feature film debut and Chloe Moretz as Melies’ goddaughter Isabelle, every performance captured by Scorsese’s camera in this film is nothing short of amazing, and the fact that each of these actors play off of each other so well only makes the performances work better.

In conclusion, Martin Scorsese’s late 2011 release of Hugo is a surprisingly inspired change of pace for Scorsese, which is not only a great film of the year, but also quite possibly the best film of the year. Come Oscar time, it would be a shame if this film were not at least nominated for best picture, even though it should not only be nominated, but win.

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