No Plan. No Backup. No Choice.

Brad Bird

Tom Cruise
Jeremy Renner
Paula Patton
Simon Pegg
Michael Nyqvist

Set some time after the last instalment, Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol opens on a fittingly elaborate prison break from a high-level Moscow facility; the prisoner in question is disavowed IMF agent, Ethan Hunt [Cruise]. Hunt soon learns that the only reason he has been released is to apprehend information from within the secure vaults of the Kremlin, which will identify the mole within who has stolen nuclear launch codes. Hunt and his team (Benji [Pegg], recently upgraded from technician to field agent and Carter [Patton], the partner of an agent assassinated in the opening sequence) devise a plan to infiltrate the Kremlin, retrieve the data and get out. Before they can fully execute the plan, they discover that the mole, codenamed Cobalt [Nyqvist], has already planted an explosive device and removed any evidence of his actions. Hunt’s team quickly abort but before they can get away, the north wall of the fortress is completely destroyed. Hunt awakes in a hospital, apprehended by Russian intelligence and labelled as the rogue US agent, responsible for the bombing. Shortly after escaping, Hunt briefly meets with the head of IMF and his lead analyst, Brandt [Renner], who explains that he has only one chance to find Cobalt, avoid nuclear war and reinstate his good name. From there the team travel to Dubai and then Mumbai in a gripping, thoroughly entertaining, round-the-world spy romp.

I must confess, I was in no way excited about this film when first advertised; despite the reasonable execution, the first three instalments left me cold and largely unimpressed, so the prospect of yet another Mission Impossible release was hardly sensational news. Thankfully, Brad Bird’s first live-action release is probably the best of the series to date with several spectacularly tense action sequences grounded by a decent story. Granted a lot of it is quite ridiculous and Tom Cruise does his usual “how do I solve this problem? Oh, I know, I’ll run” thing but if you suspend disbelief, it’s pretty damn good. Furthermore, it feels more like a genuine continuation than any of the other sequels to date. Each film felt like it was either trying to distance itself from the television series, or from its immediate predecessor but Ghost Protocol acknowledges the past outings, with several cameos and the correct proportions of bungled plans, over-the-top action sequences, steady plot flow and rip-roaring pace to ensure an all round decent spy action-thriller.

Compared to something like Sherlock Holmes: A Game Of Shadows, the plot device is incredibly tame and simplistic to follow: mental dude encourages nuclear war because we can start over equally, has launch codes, launches nuke, Tom Cruise must stop. It’s not insultingly dumbed down but it doesn’t alienate audiences by trying to overtly confuse them – mistakes made by previous Mission Impossible releases. In fact, the whole thing walks a very thin line between gritty realism and escapist hammy nonsense and it succeeds almost every time. This is emphasised by Michael Giacchino’s fitting score, which does the atypical spy thing broadcasting where you are (Budapest – Moscow – Dubai – Mumbai) with the usual paint-by-numbers male Soviet choir or ringing sitars without ever crossing that cliché, somewhat racist, line.

The performances are all engaging, filling every tickbox of sassy, capable female accomplice, quirky comical sidekick and the wild card with the obscure past, all headed by the ..well.. Tom Cruise. But despite the obvious parts they play, everyone gels together well and avoids the hammy clichés. Having said that, Tom Cruise has been known for his insistence on performing all his own stunts and there’s something delightfully charming about that. Granted, the man is a reckless fool and by doing so not only endangering his own life but also any hope of actually finishing the film but you’ve got to respect the man for trying. On top of that, it makes everything just a little more tense; I appreciate the multiple cables holding him to the side of the Burj Khalifa were digitally removed but he was still some ninety floors up, which is bloody impressive, if for the spectacle alone. Although, I wouldn’t be surprised if he ends up like Franz Reichelt.

Bird clearly has a keen eye for the scope and scale of cinema and every single shot really slaps you in the face, as if to say (well, shout) “We’re 90 floors up! Jesus! Look how high that is! Just look! Do you feel sick!? That’s Tom Cruise! Does he look sick? No! Can you look away? No!” I must admit, I don’t often comment on 3D as I feel it’s a gimmick (I’m sure you’re all aware by now) but I am so astonishingly happy that this film was shot with thirty minutes of IMAX footage rather than focusing on 3D. The sooner filmmakers start acknowledging that IMAX really is the future of cinema, the better. Bird’s transition from amazing animated films (The Iron Giant, The Incredibles and Ratatouille) to live-action is a marvel and has really resurrected the credibility of Mr. Cruise and his Mission Impossible saga.

Release Date:
27th December 2011

The Scene To Look Out For:
There are several magnificent shots and sequences but without a doubt the infiltration of Burj Khalifa was simply breathtaking. Real cinema with real locations and real stunts trumps anything one can create with computer generated imagery. The cinematography, camera placement and acting were all sublime and, as somebody who suffers from vertigo can attest, one of the most agonisingly brilliant moments of the entire film.

Notable Characters:
As stated above, the team work really well together and pushing Simon Pegg into the main light and including Patton and Renner was an incredibly good call. Having said that, I had a few issues with Mr. Nyqvist. He’s familiar to me only in that I’ve seen him in The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo trilogy but I just couldn’t believe his character. Not so much the maniacal, hell-bent apocalypse lover but the agile, nimble powerhouse with infinite stamina. Something just felt off and I really couldn’t decide if it was because Nyqvist was underplaying it or Cruise was overplaying it.

Highlighted Quote:
“I wish we could have used masks, you know full masks. I’ve never got to use a mask.. I mean, your disguise is great you look just like him but I wish we could be wearing masks”

In A Few Words:
“Exemplary action-packed spy thriller and arguably the most enjoyable of the series”

Total Score:


Cinema City Film Quiz #61

[18 December 2011]

Winning Team:
Quantum Of Doris

Genre – Contemporary gritty James Bond reboot with songs

Runners Up:
Doris Day Of The Triffids
Genre – Mutation attacks Doris Day, she then attacks the world!
A Nightmare On Elm Hill Before Christmas
Genre – Even in an area as attractive as Tombland, Freddy Kreuger discovers that last minute Christmas shopping is not a good idea
Terminator II: Doris Day
Genre – Sci-Fi Musical
Terminator II: Judgement Doris Day
Genre – Sci-fi documentary career retrospective

ROUND I: Pre-Production
1. Which holiday does Ernest aid in Ernest Saves Christmas?
2. How many Home Alone films feature Macaulay Culkin? [bonus point for naming Culkin’s last film before disappearing from cinemas for a decade]
TWO [Ritchie Rich]
3. What is the Polar Express in the film of the same name?
4. How many years passed between the 1947 original and 90s remake of Miracle On 34th Street?
5. Which US city does Buddy travel to, to meet his father, in Elf?
6. What object is Vigo The Carpathian’s soul trapped in, in Ghostbusters II?
7. Which Muppet character plays the role of Charles Dickens in The Muppet Christmas Carol?
8. Frank Capra, James Stewart, Donna Reed and Henry Travers all worked on which Christmas classic?
9. What is the name of Jack Skellington’s dog, in The Nightmare Before Christmas?
10. What was the first Die Hard film not to take place on Christmas Eve?

ROUND II: Filming [Doris Day Special]
1. James Cagney, Rock Hudson, Frank Sinatra, James Stewart, Cary Grant and Clark Gable all starred alongside which actress?
2. What year was Doris Day’s last film released? 1941? 1955? 1968?
3. In The Man Who Knew Too Much, Dr. McKenna and his wife are taking a holiday in which North African country? Egypt? Morocco? Algeria?
4. Day received her only academy award nomination for which film? Pillow Talk? Teacher’s Pet? Young At Heart?
5. Which Day western/musical featured the number one hit, “Secret Love”? Lucky Me? Calamity Jane? The Ballad Of Josie?
6. What was the title of Doris Day’s feature film debut? It’s A Great Feeling? My Dream Is Yours? Romance On The High Seas?
7. Which Day film is a biopic of dancer-cum-actress Ruth Etting? Love Me Or Leave Me? By The Light Of The Silvery Moon? Starlift?
8. What was the name of Day’s character in The Thrill Of It All? Carol Templeton? Jan Morrow? Beverly Boyer?
9. Who starred alongside Day in Please, Don’t Eat The Daisies? Rex Harrison? David Niven? Richard Harris?
10. During a massage scene in Move Over, Darling, James Garner accidentally broke one of Doris Day’s ribs. True or False?

ROUND III: Post-Production
1. Which Batman film takes place during the Christmas holiday?
2. Which Stanley Kubrick film features Christmas decorations in almost every scene?
3. Frank Cottrell Boyce’s script for Millions was heavily influenced by an interview about saints with which Italian American director?
4. What are the three rules of caring for Mogwai in Gremlins? (one point each)
5. What did Doug Liman direct before The Bourne Identity? (clue: starred Sarah Polley, Katie Holmes and Timothy Olyphant)
6. Which 50s film features heavily in Sleepless In Seattle?
7. Which British 1979 comedy featured the quote, “What are you doing creeping around a cow shed at two o’clock in the morning? That doesn’t sound very wise to me”
8. How many of In Bruges‘ cast feature in the Harry Potter series?
9. Charles Foster Kane, Jedediah Leland and Walter Parks Thatcher are characters in which film?
10. 1974 saw the release of the first big Christmas horror film (bar A Christmas Carol). What was the title? [bonus point for naming the year the remake was released]

ROUND IV: Promotion & Release
1. What was the name of the first Christmas film, released in 1914? Twas The Night Before Christmas? A Christmas Carol? The Man Who Came To Dinner?
2. Which actor was born Roy Harold Scherer? Jack Lemmon? Rock Hudson? Warren Beatty?
3. In what year was Brazil released? 1982? 1985? 1987?
4. Which of the following actresses did not star in 1952’s We’re Not Married? Doris Day? Ginger Rogers? Marilyn Monore?
5. Which of the following objects is not used as a murder weapon by Patrick Bateman, in American Psycho? Axe? Chainsaw? Nail-gun?
6. Rare Exports is set in which Scandinavian country? Finland? Sweden? Norway?
7. Which Christmas film features the songs “Snow”, “It’s Cold Outside” and “Blue Skies”? White Christmas? It Happened On Fifth Avenue? Jingle All The Way?
8. Who directed Carole Lombard and Robert Montgomery in Mr. And Mrs. Smith? Robert Wise? Alfred Hitchcock? David Lean?
9. What did Billy Wilder direct after Some Like It Hot? The Apartment? Kiss Me, Stupid? The Seven Year Itch?
10. The role of Frank Cross in Scrooged was originally written for Arnold Schwarzenegger but the studio wanted Bill Murray. True or False?


Play The Ultimate Game

Guy Ritchie

Robert Downey Jnr.
Jude Law
Jared Harris
Noomi Rapace

Taking place a year after the first film, Watson [Law] is set to be married and to cope, Holmes [Downey Jnr] has busied himself with the pursuit of a master orchestrator of crime. On the day of Watson’s stag party, Holmes expounds on his theory that respected Professor and close friend of the Prime Minister, James Moriarty [Harris], is in fact the puppeteer behind a series of seemingly unconnected crimes. He continues to explain that a series of terrorist attacks across Europe have been designed and perpetrated by Moriarty to ensure some massive global conflict. Watson wants little more to do with Holmes, simply wishing to enjoy his stag-do before his wedding the next day, so naturally reacts with extreme frustration when he learns that his party is being held in an entertainment hall connected to Holmes’ case; furthermore, all of Watson’s war/rugby/club friends could regrettably not attend – the sole respondent being Holmes’ older brother, Mycroft [Stephen Fry]. Whilst Watson entertains himself, trying to make the best of a bad night, Holmes follows several clues that lead to another key target in Moriarty’s evil machinations: a Romani fortune-teller, Sim [Rapace]. From here, Watson begrudgingly joins Holmes for one last foray – largely due to Holmes sabotaging an attempt on the newly wed Dr. + Mrs. Watson, during their honeymoon – uncovering several clues and revelations that take them all over mainland Europe, before a fittingly climactic finale atop Reichenbach Falls in Switzerland.

Much like the first film, A Game Of Shadows is littered with several subtle references to Arthur Conan Doyle’s original works whilst retaining its own unique style and flow. Building on the original, many of the popular elements remain while the weaker points have been honed and tuned to produce a clever story wrapped in a comical barrage of quasi-hammy acting and absurd scenarios. By description alone, this film shouldn’t work, much like its predecessor this movie should be a floundering mess akin to Batman & Robin but Ritchie demonstrates such a keen understanding of humour, character development, contemporary action and steady pace, that one can’t help but be entertained by this elaborate, spiralling mystery. Once again, the production values are astonishing, bringing late nineteenth century Europe to life with a subtle hint of over-stylisation; from the costumes and set design, to the props and locations, everything looks and feels aesthetically pleasing. Equally, Hans Zimmer’s commendable score returns with the now-familiar harpsichord melodies and over-the-top percussion accompaniment – arguably, it does delve into The Dark Knight/Inception territory, favouring fast-paced strings and overwhelming brass tones but that’s just a signature at this point.

The real key to these films working so well is the central performances – Downey Jnr and Law genuinely feel like a completely convincing duo who have known each other for decades. The inclusion of Noomi Rapace as the gypsy, Sim, was interesting but more a supportive plot device than anything else, the really interesting casting choices were Stephen Fry and Jared Harris. First off, when I learned of Fry’s casting as Holmes’ brother, I assumed it would be in a minor capacity, bordering on a cameo role, instead we’re treated to a thoroughly amusing, wholly fitting role for Fry that is both hilarious and perfectly deployed. I will expand on Harris’ performance below but it was quite frankly astounding, proving that Harris is closely following in his father’s illustrious footsteps.

It could be argued that pacing the plot at the same rate as Holmes’ intellect is an unwise move, guaranteeing you will lose the audience before they’ve had a chance to process everything for themselves. Personally, I feel the combination of slow-motion (yep, I’m actually promoting the use of slo-mo as a story-telling device) and repetitive forethought allows the audience a moment to follow Holmes’ line of deduction without feeling openly insulting. Having said that, individuals still may not be able to follow it and will be happily whisked through the story before feeling stunned and confused by the finale.

At this point, I doubt there’s any hope in trying to convince detractors of the first film (as A Game Of Shadows simply takes the same formula and multiplies it), some people simply refuse to see Ritchie’s series as a genuine Sherlock Holmes interpretation, much as people have issue with House or Sherlock. In lesser hands, this latest adaptation of Holmes would be a hideous cheesy romp but as it stands, these films are thoroughly enjoyable and grossly spectacular whilst successfully teetering on the edge of camp cinematics.

Release Date:
16th December 2011

The Scene To Look Out For:
As a fan of Mozart’s opera, Don Giovanni (to the extents that I insisted it be incorporated into the close of episode 5 of popular webseries, Unlocked), it was a welcome treat to see Moriarty gleefully toying with Holmes during the climactic Commmendatore scene. The music works beautifully with the performances, frenetic pacing and keen deception of it all. Brilliant stuff.

Notable Characters:
The on-screen chemistry between Downey Jnr and Law remains tremendous but the introduction of Jared Harris as the notorious Moriarty is spectacularly handled. Having proved himself in several supporting roles, it’s nice to see Harris finally getting more of a spotlight and taking on such a prominent part, exhibiting a range of poise, malice and malevolent genius with ease.

Highlighted Quote:
“Come at once if convenient. If inconvenient, come all the same”

In A Few Words:
“Engrossing, charming, witty, sensational turn of the century sequel”

Total Score:



Silence Is Golden

Michel Hazanavicius

Jean Dujardin
Berenice Bejo
John Goodman

The story opens with the premiere of silent movie star George Valentin’s [Dujardin] latest hit. Within minutes of Valentin’s vaudeville-style routine and extraordinarily affable manner, it’s easy to see why he’s such a success. Outside the cinema, he’s greeted by hounds of photographers and screaming fans; one of whom, Peppy Miller [Bejo], accidentally stumbles into the spotlight and quickly becomes the focus of Hollywood newspapers. Trying her luck, she auditions with Valentin’s studio Kinograph, run by cigar-chomping producer, Al Zimmer [Goodman]. After a rough start, Miller finds herself as a supporting extra in Valentin’s latest picture and from there slowly works her way up the ladder to major star. Several years later, Zimmer takes Valentin to one side and introduces him to test shots for the latest revolutionary element in film: sound. Naturally, Valentin laughs it off as a gimmick but after a vivid dream becomes intensely paranoid about the changing industry. A fear he soon realises as Kinograph announce they will only be making ‘talkies’ from now on. Full of pride and branded as obsolete, Valentin walks out of the studio vowing the audiences will come to see him no matter what he’s in. Convinced of this, he begins pouring his own money into a new silent epic called Tears Of Love; it’s only later he discovers his personally funded release is up against Kinograph’s talking sensation Beauty Spot, starring Peppy Miller. Not only is his film regarded as hammy and outdated, Valentin suffers greatly due to the Wall Street crash. Penniless, morose and forgotten, Valentin sinks into a deep depression. And that’s all I’m saying about that, anything else will spoil it.

The fact that this movie has been shot in black-and-white on proper film, without sound (bar a few tiny nods) shouldn’t actually make a blind bit of difference and the primary point of any conversation or critique deserves to be the directing and acting. As much as this may feel like a bold move by Hazanavicius, it’s just an artist’s desire to relive a bygone style of filmmaking, paying tribute to cinematic pioneers and reminding audiences of why old films held such sway. Each and every scene is beautifully lit and shot, evoking overwhelming levels of nostalgia for thirties and forties films. But outside of that, if the leads had in any way acted outside of the era’s expected style, The Artist wouldn’t have worked. Thankfully, Dujardin and Bejo beautifully channel everything one remembers/expects to see in a pre WWII film – Valentin is charming, affable, horrifically talented and lights the room with an almost caddish smile and the aptly named Peppy is bold, bouncy, spectacular and perfectly delightful.

Being a silent film, the score – provided by the relatively unknown Ludovic Bource – plays an absolutely crucial role. If I’m honest, the first third of the film does suffer a little from repetitive upbeat themes that crash on happily without really letting up but once the real drama and meat of the story kick in, the score is more than ready to meet the challenge. Visually, the lack of sets and heavy use of location shots gives the whole movie more of a 40s aesthetic feel than 20s but this in no way detracts from the fact that bar the odd appearance from familiar faces such as John Goodman, James Cromwell and Malcolm McDowell, you could easily believe The Artist was shot decades ago.

With so few negative points to comment on and a cortege of praise to bestow upon it, I am slightly worried about this movie; much in the same way that I was worried about Hugo and the vast chasm between critically acclaimed releases and public opinion. Personally, I adore this movie and it’s a wonderful treat from beginning to end but I can’t help thinking it may be because it plays on my love of cinema. If I were feeling particularly cruel, I could suggest that this film is less an original creation and merely a homage heavy device, stealing the best bits of twenty years of classic cinema, helmed by actors impersonating long-dead Hollywood legends. For that fear alone, I have marked this film down from a perfect score. Maybe I’m playing up to paranoia, who knows? I will admit that as an artistic creation, this movie is masterfully handled and by contemporary standards it’s a very welcome breath of fresh air. But how would it fare if it were actually released in the thirties or forties? The fact that I cannot answer that question is why I’ve begrudgingly settled on nine out of ten.

Release Date:
30th December 2011

The Scene To Look Out For:
Two scenes in particular really stood out for me. The first is during Valentin and Miller’s first on-screen appearance. Valentin’s character stalks a crowded room, dancing with one partner before moving on to the next – who comically turns out to be a heavyset gentleman; which alone is very entertaining. Then the shot resets and Valentin attempts his second take, this time bursting into laughter while dancing with Miller. Despite several takes of the exact same thing with a slight and tender musical accompaniment, it’s a thoroughly engrossing moment. Secondly, one of the most jarring moments, is actually a dream sequence. Having been introduced to the concept of talking films, Valentin storms back to his dressing room and sips at his glass before placing it down on the dresser – the sound of the glass clinking against the dresser surface is as much a shock to the audience as it is the main character. This short scene escalates gracefully, never overwhelming the audience or becoming too ridiculous but making a simple, powerful statement.

Notable Characters:
Despite the fact that Bejo does an exceptional job, Jean Dujardin channels so much through this release that it would be impossible to think of any other individual in that role. Filled with old-world class and charm, phenomenal energy and pride, and heartfelt sorrow and betrayal, Dujardin instantly sets the scene, propelling us into a beautiful bygone era.

Highlighted Quote:
“With pleasure”

In A Few Words:
“Capturing all the charm of classic 30s cinema and all the bitter sorrow of Sunset Boulevard, The Artist is nostalgic excellence”

Total Score:


Cinema City Film Quiz #60

[04 December 2011]

Winning Team:
Memoirs Of An Invisible Man II: Now You Buscemi, Now You Don’t

Genre – John Carpenter sequel with Chevy Chase and Steve Buscemi

Runners Up:
Key Fargo
Genre – Kinda funny looking guy holes up in a storm with gangsters
The Boardwalk Empire Strikes Back
Genre – Nucky Thompson dons a cape and joins the space race

ROUND I: Pre-Production
1. Who played the role of Michael Keaton’s clones in Multiplicity?
2. How many children do Steve Martin and Bonnie Hunt have in Cheaper By The Dozen?
3. Which sport (pastime) features at the centre of Kingpin?
4. Who directed Lock, Stock & Two Smokin’ Barrels?
5. The Olypmic bobsled team in Cool Runnings are representing which country? [bonus point for naming the actor who plays their coach]
JAMAICA [John Candy]
6. What is Fletcher Reede’s job in Liar Liar?
7. ‘With great power comes great responsibility’ was the poster tagline for which film?
8. Stir Crazy, Silver Streak, Another You and See No Evil, Hear No Evil starred which comedy duo? (one point per correct answer)
9. Zack Snyder’s debut was a remake of which George Romero film?
10. Apollo Creed, Clubber Lang, Ivan Drago and Mason Dixon are all characters in which film series?

ROUND II: Filming [Steve Buscemi Special]
1. Who does Steve Buscemi play in Reservoir Dogs?
2. In which film did Buscemi star alongside Jeff Bridges and John Goodman?
3. How many Quentin Tarantino films has Buscemi featured in? [bonus points for naming the titles]
TWO [Reservoir Dogs / Pulp Fiction]
4. Buscemi played Map To The Stars Eddie in which film?
5. What does Seymour collect in Ghost World?
6. Which part of Carl’s body gets shot, in Fargo?
7. What is the name of Rex’s band in Airheads?
8. In which film did Buscemi’s character claim to drive through three states wearing a girl’s head as a hat?
9. What was the title of Buscemi’s feature directorial debut?
10. Steve Buscemi’s character in Desperado is called Buscemi as the part was written specifically for him. True or False?

ROUND III: Post-Production
1. Which 80’s film featured cameos by Aretha Franklin, James Brown, Cab Calloway, Ray Charles and Carrie Fisher?
2. Excluding Mirror, Mirror, name all three films directed by Tarsem Singh. (one point per correct answer)
3. How many actors played the role of Evan Treborn at various ages in The Butterfly Effect?
THREE (Ashton Kutcher, John Patrick Amedori, Logan Lerman)
4. Which animated Disney feature was released after The Rescuers?
5. Errol Flynn, Clark Gable, Marlon Brando and Mel Gibson have all played Fletcher Christian in adaptations of which historical event?
6. Which film featured the characters Benjamin Willard, Walter Kurtz, Tyrone Miller and American Photojournalist? [bonus point for naming the actor who played ‘American Photojournalist’]
APOCALYPSE NOW [Dennis Hopper]
7. Which four cast members feature on the poster for Mona Lisa Smile? (one point per correct answer)
8. Which film featured the following quote: “You’re not death, you’re just a kid in a suit!”
9. What’s the name of the dancing group in Donnie Darko?
10. Who directed Uncle Buck?

ROUND IV: Promotion & Release
1. The tune played over the Disney logo (at the start of every Disney film) is a song from which Disney film? Pinocchio? Dumbo? Cinderella?
2. Which of the following did not star in Mike Nichols’ Heartburn? Meryl Streep? Shelley Duvall? Jack Nicholson? [bonus point for stating the year the film was released]
3. How many films has Mickey Rooney worked on (excl. shorts and TV films)? 162? 198? 236?
4. What colour is Lt. Frank Bullitt’s Ford Mustang in Bullitt? Green? Red? Yellow?
5. What is the name of the party that The Rules Of Attraction opens and closes on? End Of The World? End Of Tomorrow? End Of Our Lives?
6. In Top Gun, Michael Ironside plays Maverick’s Lt. Cmdr, Rick Heatherly. What is his call-sign? Jester? Slider? Cougar?
7. James Stewart and Kim Novak starred together in which Hitchcock film? Rear Window? The Man Who Knew Too Much? Vertigo?
8. In what year was Breakfast At Tiffany’s released? 1961? 1963? 1965?
9. What is Michael Clayton addicted to in the film of the same name? Alcohol? Gambling? Pain medication?
10. During the graveyard scene in High Plains Drifter, various tombstones feature names of directors that Clint Eastwood has previously worked with. True or False?


Unlock The Secret

Martin Scorsese

Asa Butterfield
Chloe Grace Moretz
Ben Kingsley
Sacha Baron Cohen

The story opens to late 20’s/early 30’s Paris, detailing the busy workings of a train station. The flower vendor restocks her stall, the bookseller stands watch, the artist admires the café owner and the inspector patrols the platforms, all under the watchful eye of a young boy occupying the various corridors hidden behind the walls and clock-faces. We quickly learn that the young boy is our eponymous hero and after the death of his father, was put to work in the station, attending to the grand clocks. In addition to maintaining the time-pieces and scrounging for food, Hugo’s [Butterfield] main preoccupation is finishing his father’s work, repairing an automaton – a mechanical humanoid device which should write once it is completed. Hugo’s main source for spare parts is a clockwork toy booth within the station, operated by a cantankerous old man [Kingsley]. Eventually catching the boy red handed, the old man confiscates his belongings, including a notebook which details the automaton’s required parts. Clearly disturbed by the notebook, the old man insists Hugo work in his stall until he pays off the debt of stolen goods. Refusing to tell the old man where he acquired the book, the toy vendor explains he will burn it on his return home. Venturing out into the cold, Hugo follows the old man to his house and signals a young girl inside. The precocious young lady, Isabelle [Moretz] is in fact the old man’s goddaughter, explaining his name is Georges Melies and she has lived with him and his wife since the death of her parents. The two children start a tentative friendship, as she shares her passion for books and he, his love for film. After about an hour or so of mild peril and adventure, the film’s story really kicks into high-gear, revealing the toy vendor is in fact Hugo’s late father’s favourite director. This comes as a great surprise to Hugo, Isabelle and a professor of film, who has developed an obsession for Melies’ work, most of which is lost.

In all honesty, the trailers for Hugo have been horribly misleading. Focusing on the automaton robot and a boy in a train station, I had no idea Hugo was actually about Georges Melies, so much so that when he’s finally introduced, I muttered, “They named him after the director? That’s a nice touch.” As such, Hugo is less about a boy searching for a key to activate a mechanical boy and actually a profoundly touching story about belonging and purpose. Curiously, it’s a subject many aging directors have been exploring of late: will people remember my work when I’m gone? The most recent example I can think of is Terry Gilliam’s The Imaginarium Of Dr. Parnassus, which centred on the morose statement: nobody’s interested in my stories anymore. Either way, Scorsese has always been type-cast as ‘that gangster film guy’ which is a great pity as only half of his work has really been about gangland culture and his real talent lies in evocative story-telling, making him the perfect artist to helm this beautiful, charming love-letter to the art of film-making.

But I digress. Technically speaking, the film is a wonder, flawlessly capturing 20s Paris with a hint of whimsy and romanticism, whilst retaining the lingering effects of the war. The direction is as sharp as ever, as is the stellar cinematography. Unfortunately, the editing feels a little disconnected at times, stuttering with mild continuity errors but it’s hardly noticeable unless you’re really looking for it. Howard Shore’s score, while not completely memorable is very fitting and delightfully utilised to ensure even the most perilous of situations feels like light-hearted family entertainment, rather than life-threateningly dramatic and over-the-top danger. I refuse to discuss 3D in films, despite the acclaim other industry professionals are affording it because I genuinely do not enjoy 3D and don’t feel it adds a great deal to the immersive experience. So… pfffft.

The acting is thoroughly commendable, with Ben Kingsley sliding from heartless old man to forlorn artist to jester masterfully and all the supports work in succinct harmony. However, the biggest pitfall Hugo seems to stumble on is the casting. I’m not suggesting that anyone failed in any way, as even the most minor role was played gracefully, more they were each surpassed by their co-stars. In other words, the supporting cast were just that and the heart of the film truly belongs to Butterfield, Kingsley and Helen McCroy as Georges’ wife. My biggest problem was actually with Chloe Grace Moretz’s character; something about her just felt unexplored and a tad two-dimensional. I appreciate she was a fan of literature and hungry for exploration and adventure (sometimes over common sense) but the story never delves any deeper than that. I’m not sure if this is a problem translated from the book or something was missing but it was a shame. Outside of that, for someone so young, her British accent was very convincing… even if the story was based in France.

In addition to the compelling story, sublime acting and visual treats, there are many subtle references and nods to silent film cinema and images of the time, including a Harold Lloyd-esque clock hanging sequence, the inspector’s affections for the flower-girl and even a dream sequence which references the 1895 derailment at Montparnasse station. Along with several centennial anniversaries, The Fall and the upcoming release of The Artist, there has been a subtle fascination with the silent film era. Not that this is something negative, I’m a fan of silent films and Scorsese deserves exalted praise for introducing a new generation of children to the spectacle of classic cinema. Having said all that, something vexes me. I have concerns that the rave reviews from critics may not solely be down to the fact that this is spectacular, wholesome, family fun but down to its celebration of early cinema. I realise critics claim to produce unbiased opinions but I can’t help wondering if we love it for the subject matter and that the movie will fail to really find an audience. I suppose time will tell.

Release Date:
2nd December 2011

The Scene To Look Out For:
Without a doubt, my favourite scene takes place in the library of the academy of film. As the two leads leaf through Professor Tabard’s [Michael Stuhlbarg] book on the history of cinema, the audience is bombarded by an intoxicating medley of footage from several key moments in the progression of silent film. Not only is it a wondrous montage (two words which I rarely pair together), it’s also a key turning point in the film and the introduction point for Stuhlbarg’s character – a nice surprise after his phenomenal performance in A Serious Man.

Notable Characters:
To hold your own amongst such acclaimed talent is a very difficult thing but no matter how well you perform, you will still be up against people like Ben Kingsley. Kingsley’s had a fair share of dire performances in less than promotable films (FUCKING THUNDERBIRDS FOR GOD’S SAKE!) but when he’s on form, he’s a master all unto himself. As stated before, the range of passion and heartbreak the man channels for Melies’ forgotten place in cinema is astonishing, chilling and at times, deeply moving.

Highlighted Quote:
“Have you ever wondered where your dreams come from? This is where they’re made”

In A Few Words:
“Exquisite, passionate and thoroughly engrossing story-telling from a director at the peak of his creativity”

Total Score: