If 10 years ago you were to tell me that legendary director Martin Scorsese was making a children’s movie, in 3D none the less, I would have probably laughed in your face. Sure, Marty is easily one of the best filmmakers in existence, known for his violent crime films, but there’s no way he’s going to make a kids movie and a good one at that. It’s just unbelievable. Yet here I stand, several Oscar nominations (and wins) later, stating that Hugo is easily the best 3D film I’ve ever seen and one of the better films of 2011.
It’s a true marvel. The trailer for Hugo sells you on a kid’s adventure film, with a little bit of tom foolery added in for good measures, but it’s much more than that. It’s a touching look at one of the earliest founding fathers of film and it manages to bring it all back and relate it to a boy without a family or any real future. Hugo‘s relevance and universal message is what’s going to make it a timeless classic and a staple in 3D filmmaking.
The plot revolves around a boy named Hugo Cabret (Asa Butterfield), who lives alone in the walls of a train station. After the death of his father (played by Jude Law) and the abandonment by his uncle (played by Ray Winstone), Hugo spends his days keeping the clocks running. He’s a lonely boy and the only thing that keeps him going is an automaton, left by his father. It’s his last link to the past and with the help of Isabelle (Chloë Grace Moretz) and her godfather Georges (Ben Kingsley), Hugo discovers his purpose. To further discuss the plot of Hugo would ruin a rewarding surprise, so we’ll stop right there.
What you need to know is that just about everything in Hugo works really well. The performances by Asa Butterfield and Chloë Grace Moretz are good, with Moretz providing a funnier and more interesting character to explore. Butterfield does a good enough job as Hugo, but he’s more or less a work in progress that gets much better by the end.
Sir Ben Kingsley steals most of the thunder, with is emotional performance as Georges. He’s a bit secretive and unfocused at the beginning, but he comes into play towards the second act.
There’s also a bunch of great supporting roles by Sacha Baron Cohen, Emily Mortimer and Michael Stuhlbarg. Cohen gets the most to work with and he surprisingly shows his skills as an actor with many talents. He’s not his usually silly self (well, he is, just not in the R-rated sense we’re used to). Jude Law and Ray Winstone make the briefest of appearances, but they work well on the grand scheme of things.
The direction is what really knocks the film out of the park. Martin Scorsese captures the film with enough artistic flare and classic imagery to really let the film tell its own story. The train station is transformed into a colorful memory, full of steamy runways and warm pastries. Scorsese plays around with his shots, catering to 3D unlike before. There’s an opening sequence that takes you directly through the train station without a pause and it fully submerges you into the film.
The more subtle shots also cater heavily to the format. There’s lots of depth present throughout the whole film. When Hugo’s running around the station the entire background is stretched and expanded to give you the most depth. Steam comes puffing out of the pipes while the pipes themselves stick out. Hugo is a first-class example of how to properly and carefully shoot a movie in 3D.
Hugo is very much a Martin Scorsese film, with so much heart and soul poured into the film. He’s yet to really make a bad movie and I’m so relieved to say that Hugo sits on his resume next to greats like Goodfellas and Casino without a problem. It’s the ultimate tribute to cinema and uses the newest format to do so. Well done.
Paramount brings the film to Blu-Ray in both 3D and 2D. The 3D disc isn’t perfect, with ghosting being the only real gaping error. Aside from that, the transfer is flawless. Detail is marvelous and colors are vivid. The 2D transfer is literally spot-less, with not a hiccup insight. There’s a wide variety of colors present and the disc replicates that.
The 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio is just as good. It’s incredibly active, with every channel coming into play constantly. The front channels open up for dialogue, but feature just as much activity as the back. Every single minor train station sound like trains arriving or people scurrying about is brought to life with this track.
The disc comes with a few different ways to watch the film, plus 5 features that provide more back story on how the film was shot in 3D and more history on the pioneer filmmaker the film deals with. They’re good extras, but not as extensive as you’d hope for. Here’s a full list below.
- 3D & 2D copy of the film
- Shoot the Moon: The Making of Hugo (HD)
- The Cinemagician, Georges Méliès (HD)
- The Mechanical Men at the Heart of Hugo (HD)
- Big Effects, Small Scale (HD)
- Sacha Baron Cohen: Role of a Lifetime (HD)
- UltraViolet Digital Copy
- Digital Copy
- DVD Copy
Hugo is the perfect film to own on Blu-Ray. The film itself is of great quality and the Blu-Ray is a knockout. It looks and sounds perfect and the package is topped off with an okay batch of special features. Plus, the combo pack has both versions of the film (2D & 3D) as well as a DVD copy, UltraViolet digital copy and basic digital copy. That’s more than enough different ways to experience a great film.
It’s sure to please film fans around the world as well as anyone looking for an adventure that pays respect to everything before it while telling its own story. Hugo is a magical experience that easily takes the cake as one of the more memorable films of 2011.
Hugo is easily the best 3D film I’ve ever seen and one of the better films of 2011.
Hugo Blu-Ray Review