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Posts Tagged ‘Chloe Grace Moretz’

A little bit less than a year ago I was approached at work by a former student of mine. It was obvious he had something on his mind and that there was a burning question he was dying to ask me. Although we no longer had a formal relationship of any kind, I am always honoured and happy to help out in this sort of situation, and mentally prepared myself for what would very likely be a perceptive and thoughtful question concerning rarefied details of linguistics, culture and social behaviour. As I suspected, he got straight to the point and asked me the question uppermost in his mind.

‘Why did Dr Strange give Thanos the Time Stone? It’s stupid, it didn’t make any sense.’

Well, we discussed the answer for some time, as you would, but even as we talked I found myself feeling a great sense of pride that my former student still had his priorities straight and that I had placed his feet so firmly on the path of virtue. And so it felt entirely appropriate that we went to the cinema together, this week of all weeks, to enjoy – well, actually, we went to see Neil Jordan’s Greta, as the other film you may be thinking of only opened at midnight and there’s no way I can stay up until 4am on a work night and still function the next day. So it goes.

Still, we had a pretty good time watching Greta, because Neil Jordan is never less than competent as a director – that said, you’re never quite sure what you’re going to get from him, as the description ‘eclectic’ barely begins to do justice to his filmography – he’s done fantasy films, thrillers of various stripes, and comedies. His last film, Byzantium, was about pole-dancing vampires, and I still regret not actually going to see it. Hey ho.

Greta is set in New York City and concerns Frances (Chloe Grace Moretz), a young woman working as a waitress in one of the metropolis’ swankier restaurants. She has recently lost her mother and has a somewhat fractious relationship with her pa, both of which are relevant to the plot, as is the fact she is sharing an apartment with her best friend (Maika Monroe). The best friend is brash and somewhat self-interested; Frances is kind and thoughtful. The wisdom of this as a lifestyle choice is thrown into doubt after Frances finds an expensive handbag on the metro one day and resolves to return it to the original owner. This turns out to be Greta (Isabelle Huppert), a pleasant but lonely lady of a certain age. Great’s husband has passed away, her daughter is living abroad, and she doesn’t even have a dog any more. Frances’ sympathies are stirred, to say nothing of the fact she is missing a maternal influence in her life, and the two quickly become close.

And then, of course, because it’s fairly obvious from the start what kind of movie this is and how it’s all going to go, there is the big moment of revelation: while round at Greta’s house, Frances looks in the wrong cupboard and comes across a whole pile of handbags of the same kind she found, each one labelled with the name and phone number of the person who returned it to Greta. But where are these thoughtful people now? What exactly is Greta up to?

I think you would have to be pretty wet behind the ears yourself not to have some idea which way this movie goes, for it is apparent from quite close to the start that this is one of your old-fashioned obsession-themed psycho thrillers, not all that different from the likes of Fatal Attraction, Single White Female or The Resident. Greta doesn’t seem particularly interested in moving the genre on at all; its main innovations are that the traditional bit with a kitchen knife is reimagined to make use of a biscuit cutter, and that it is completely, ravenously, roaringly bonkers. Not particularly in the story, which is standard stuff as I have noted, but in the treatment of it. I was really anticipating something subtle and classy, given Jordan’s involvement, with a long build-up before the onset of the screaming ab-dabs, but the film has other ideas and is really, really keen to get to the proper psycho killer meat of the story. The ominous strings and twitchy smash-cuts are introduced rather abruptly, not to mention quite early on, which means the film has to go further and further out there to maintain its momentum as it continues. I have to say I found the results to be highly entertaining, but the film is preposterous rather than any kind of scary.

Which leads one, of course, to wonder exactly what an actress with the stellar reputation of Isabelle Huppert is doing in this kind of tosh. Huppert is in majestic form and carries off the whole movie effortlessly, bringing a lovely lightness of touch to her role as a frothing maniac: she barely needs to get out of first gear to dominate the film. But still, why is she in it at all? The only explanation is that she feels she needs to raise her Hollywood profile a bit so she can compete for good parts in American films; this is the reason why Nigel Hawthorne made an equally unlikely appearance in Demolition Man, after all. Then again, I suppose there may also be a financial component involved – Laurence Olivier, during that point at the end of his career when he routinely turned up in things like The Boys from Brazil, The Jazz Singer, Dracula, and Clash of the Titans, responded testily to questions as to why he did so many lousy movies with the reply that artistic merit wasn’t the only consideration. Anyway, Huppert is very far from the first class act to slum it in dodgy genre fare, and it’s not as if she’s alone here – Chloe Grace Moretz is also a feted performer (not so much for her recent work, admittedly), and she does good work here too. Also, just to make sure everyone is certain this is a Neil Jordan film, his regular collaborator Stephen Rea turns up in a small role; students of film history will understand what I mean when I say that Rea is in the Martin Balsam part.

As I say, I enjoyed the ridiculous extremity of Greta more than anything else, because there’s little substantially new about this film, and Jordan really only does a workmanlike job as the director – there’s an interesting sequence where the boundaries between reality and fantasy seem to start breaking down, but this doesn’t really go anywhere. But the movie is worth seeing even if it’s just for the sight of classy actors having fun; by that same token, of course, I have to say that if this film had been made with a less distinguished cast, it would almost certainly have gone straight to DVD.

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Have you ever wondered what Tobey Maguire has been up to since the end of his days as the Spider-Man-before-last? Me neither, but apparently he has become a movie producer and he has a project out at the moment: a YA SF novel adaptation entitled The 5th Wave, directed by Jonathan Blakeson. I am usually a bit wary of this sort of thing, but then I recalled how genuinely accomplished some other films of this ilk turned out to be and decided to give it a go. Plus we were having the plumbing done and I was under instructions to stay out of the house until tea-time that day.

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So it was that, in time honoured style, I turned up to one of the very last showings of The 5th Wave in Oxford, which possibly makes reviewing it a bit unnecessary. But what can I say, it’s pathological. The film opens with Cassie Sullivan (Chloe Grace Moretz), one of your feisty young teenage girl heroines, making her way through a discreetly post-apocalyptic landscape. It quickly becomes apparent that events have forced her to adopt a ferocious, kill-first-ask-questions-later approach to life.

But how has such a state of things come to pass? I probably don’t hear you cry. Well, anyway, the film jumps back and explains anyway. Cassie is just an ordinary all-American girl until the day that a mysterious giant object appears in the sky, circling the globe and refusing to respond to Terran communications. The visitors are quickly christened, rather unimaginatively, the Others, and the cast work very hard to pronounce the capital letters. It transpires the Others are up to no good and have availed themselves of the Bumper Book of Apocalyptic Cliches, which they go through at a fair old clip. First of all they switch off all the electricity (including all the teen characters’ smartphones: it really is the end of the world as we know it), then they manage to contrive worldwide floods and tsunamis. (‘I can’t imagine what it was like on the coast,’ says Cassie via the magic of voice-over, but luckily the viewers don’t have to try, as this is exactly sort of set-piece VFX sequence which is the meat and drink of a genre movie nowadays.) Next is souped-up bird flu.

Well, at this point the survivors pitch up in refugee camps, where things appear to take a turn for the better when the US Army turns up under the command of Colonel Vosch (Liev Schreiber). However, Vosch has grim news of a fourth wave of alien activity – the Others have taken human form and are infiltrating the survivor enclaves. To this end Vosch is under orders to take all the children into protective custody, youngsters being easier to screen for alien-ness. Needless to say this proves controversial and in the ensuing ructions Cassie finds herself cut off from her little brother and ultimately left alone in the wilderness…

From this point the story cuts back and forth between Cassie’s various travails (wandering cross-country, getting into scrapes, being rescued by a mysterious hunky stranger played by Alex Roe – there is inevitably some coy sexual tension to be dealt with) and the doings of the kids taken in by Vosch and his men. The kids are basically recruited as child soldiers and prepared to be sent off to fight the apparently-imminent fifth wave of alien beastliness…

Okay, so let me think about this. We’ve got a tough but caring young female lead, played by a notably capable young actress, who is frequently seen yomping through the woods carrying a deadly weapon she is happy to use. We’ve got the younger relative she is the selfless protector of. We’ve got a couple of guys, one very rugged, one more non-threatening, both of whom have a bit of a thing for her. We’ve got a dash of intellectual strong meat (the child soldier stuff). And we’ve got an absolute cartload of genre tropes. What does all this remind me of…?

It would be great to be able to review The 5th Wave without making some kind of reference to The Hunger Games, but at this moment in time it is far beyond my ability. Anyway, the game the producers of this movie are playing is very obvious to anyone keeping up with modern cinema trends: they’re gunning for the same huge audience the quartet of Suzanne Collins-derived films managed to tap into.

The 5th Wave‘s fairly modest take to date seems to indicate they haven’t really managed it, and I would cautiously suggest this is because the film is – how can I put this with a sufficient degree of precision? – lousy. The opening sequence is effective enough, but once the story proper gets underway, a ripe smell rapidly begins to permeate proceedings. This is one of the tritest apocalypses I can recall seeing, with most of the adult characters being shuffled off-screen with almost unseemly haste, while the collapse of communications and transport systems doesn’t appear to interfere with Moretz’s ability to find hair care products. The whole thing is shot in such a blandly good-looking style that even the piles of corpses which occasionally pop up don’t have much impact.

Beneath the affectless surface lurks a script in which lines such as ‘Let the weight of our hope drive you forward!’ qualifies as inspirational rhetoric rather than a garbled mixed metaphor. And they really should have considered renaming the bad guys: ‘I’m not an Other!’ cries one outraged character during a key scene. ‘Not another what…?’ I thought, before I realised what he meant. Later on there is a scene with one character declaring their love for another which is, quite simply, shockingly hackneyed, to the point where one feels embarrassed for the actors and oneself while watching it. None of it feels like it really means anything, it’s just a collection of stuff bolted together for its own sake – it uses a bunch of SF tropes but never feels like actual SF, somehow (and I suppose the absence of actual aliens helps keep the budget down). People run around and stuff blows up but you’re never in danger of caring about any of it.

The problems run deeper, especially when it comes to all the stuff about child soldiers. The film’s handling of this topic is grotesque, with none of the thoughtfulness and intelligence of Ender’s Game (I’m aware that saying nice things about Ender’s Game probably makes me an insane homophobe in some people’s eyes). Either the film is trying to make a point about child soldiers in the real world but doing it with great crassness and a total lack of subtlety, or it’s just doing a story about child soldiers, with a stunning lack of appreciation of how inappropriate this is. Either way, I found it rather repulsive (which, ironically enough, pretty much describes my dad’s reaction to The Hunger Games, a film which I find mostly commendable).

This is grim stuff, my friends, grim, grim. I’m not sure that Chloe Grace Moretz is quite in the same league as Jennifer Lawrence, but she is still a performer with talent and presence, none of which really gets anything like the outlet it deserves in this load of old nonsense. She’s still better than the other junior members of the cast, who are as flat and mechanical as their characters, and most of the senior ones, too. Maria Bello has fun going over the top as a drill sergeant, while challenging Moretz for the title of best thing in a really bad movie is Liev Schreiber, who at least has the charisma to rise above.

We are threatened with at least two more instalments of this faintly unsavoury and distinctly unoriginal saga – possibly more, if the SOP of these series is followed and the final film is hacked in half to maximise the revenue stream. I very rarely feel guilty about going to the cinema but I’m fully aware that by paying to see The 5th Wave I’ve only made the appearance of a follow-up more likely. I feel really bad about this. Don’t make my mistake.

 

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Well, civilisation continued and the weather was sort of nice, so off I went to see Kick-Ass 2, written and directed by Jeff Wadlow (director of… well… nothing you’ve ever heard of, probably), taking over the reins from Matthew Vaughn. Now, just to recap, I thought the 2010 original was enjoyable on some levels but not without some problematic elements: a well-made film, but I couldn’t shake the sense that this was ultimately quite a cynical exercise.

News that Kick-Ass 2 was coming along at all was a bit of a surprise to me, the further revelation that Jim Carrey was attempting to distance himself from the project (having apparently had a Damascine moment as far as the violence was concerned) somehow less so. As you may recall, I even made a few predictions as to exactly what the sequel would be like: a built-up role for Chloe Grace Moretz as Hit-Girl, even more OTT  violence and other ‘shocking’ content, and underneath it all a much more straightforward superhero story than the makers would be prepared to admit to. So what kind of shape were my precognitive powers in?

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Well. Two years on from the events of the first film (I suspect this is the minimum gap the makers can get away, given they have to acknowledge the fact that Moretz visibly looks older), Dave Lizewski (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) resumes his activities as barely-competent masked crimefighter Kick-Ass, mainly out of boredom. He hopes to team up with the much more lethal Hit-Girl (Moretz), but she is struggling to honour a promise to her deceased father that she will try to live a normal life.

As Hit-Girl tries to fit in amongst the lip-gloss and boy-band obsessed harpies at the local high school, Kick-Ass is forced to look elsewhere for support, finding it in the form of Justice Forever, a low-budget superhero team led by Colonel Stars and Stripes (Carrey), an unhinged born-again Christian, and incorporating such legendary heroes as Insect-Man, Doctor Gravity and Night-Bitch. However, where there are superheroes there are bound to be supervillains, and – still smarting from the death of his own father – Dave’s old associate Chris (Christopher Mintz-Plasse) has abandoned his heroic identity as the Red Mist and adopted the villainous guise of… actually, his supervillain name is much too rude for me to include in a civic-minded review. Check Wikipedia if you must.

As you may have been able to tell, I went into Kick-Ass 2 fully-braced for the kind of sequel which slimes the memory of the original film: you know, the RoboCop 2 or Predator 2 kind of sequel. Given what a ticklish balancing act the first film largely succeeded at, the fact that Kick-Ass 2 isn’t a complete train-wreck must qualify as some sort of an achievement.

If I say that this is a film that is wildly variable in terms of its tone and contains some really problematic material, well, you could say all that about the first one, too. It initially looks like the movie is going to be about messed-up kids looking for a father figure (portraits of the two dead fathers from the first film feature prominently), but this never completely materialises. Then for a while it looks like the film is instead going to take as its theme the need for belonging and companionship – Hit-Girl tries to find it amongst the ‘normal’, if obnoxious, cool girls at her school, while Kick-Ass achieves it (for a while) amongst a group of fellow aspiring superheroes. This is quite interesting, but the pay-off is awkward (I’ll come back to this).

In the end, though, the film boils down to the same uneasy mixture of knowing jokes about comics conventions (Chris’s tendency to give his underlings spectacularly non-PC supervillain codenames is particularly droll), gross-out slapstick comedy, sentimental drama and graphic violence, often in unsettling proximity to each other. One minute there’s a fairly repugnant punchline about projectile vomiting and diarrhea, the next it seems to be trying to be Watchmen – it’s all very disconcerting. And, as I expected, everything seems to have been turned up a few notches. Particularly problematic, I think, is a scene in the second half of the film, which begins as an attack on one of Kick-Ass’s female friends, played straight. It concludes with an attempted rape, which is played for laughs. Yup, you read that right: an attempted rape, which is played for laughs.

I must confess the film lost me at that point and never quite got me back. I’m not saying sexual violence can’t be the subject of fiction, but incorporating it into what’s ultimately a knockabout superhero comedy-drama really leaves a bad taste in the mouth. Because that’s what Kick-Ass 2 is – by its conclusion it looks much more like a ‘straight’ superhero film than its predecessor ever did. But it also seems to be having its cake and eating it, based mainly on whether or not a given character is supposed to be cool or not: most of the superheroes and villains in this film are vaguely ludicrous sociopaths and inadequates (and Jim Carrey, by the way, gives one of his better performances, whatever his misgivings about the movie). They are ridiculous and no sane person would want to imitate them. Yet, at the climax of the film, Hit-Girl’s decision to revive her costumed identity is presented as an affirmatory moment, an epiphany: this is who she is supposed to be!

As I say, if you take it seriously, Kick-Ass 2 is a tonally and thematically inconsistent and frequently difficult film. In terms of my predictions, I was pleasantly surprised that Hit-Girl didn’t completely dominate the story, but it is more extreme than the first one, presumably to cover the fact that it’s arguably more conventional, too. Wadlow’s direction is decent, if not up to Vaughn’s standard, most of the performances are fine, and the drama and action are actually well-mounted and engaging. However, while the door is left the tiniest bit ajar for a further installment, I would really think hard before attempting it. There’s a limit to how far you can successfully push a concept like Kick-Ass, and this film looks like it’s hard up against that limit already. Thanks, but enough.

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Well, the continuation of global civilisation and weather permitting, I’m trundling off to watch Kick-Ass 2 at some point in the next few days and this seems as logical a time as any to share my thoughts about the original 2010 film, directed by Matthew Vaughn. I have been promising a review for a couple of years now, but as it took me quite a long time to catch up with the actual movie this delay is not entirely inappropriate.

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I believe I saw the first trailer for the film, which ran before Avatar in 2009, and thought something like ‘That looks a bit different,’ but when it actually came out I was in Sri Lanka and quite probably several thousand miles from a decent English-language cinema. I do recall turning up a copy of the Daily Mail on the flight home in which the resident critic complained about being ‘cyber-bullied’ after describing it as ‘a crime against cinema’ and morally inexcusable.

Normally I would give a very favourable hearing to anything with the ability to get the Daily Mail so upset, but by the time I was back in the UK the film’s theatrical run was coming to an end and I basically had a tough call to make: see Kick-Ass, or Iron Man 2. Now in retrospect, one of these films is much more interesting (and arguably more accomplished) than the other, but I was still smarting after not seeing the original Iron Man in English (I was in Italy when it came out – a pattern develops) and made a bad call.

Eventually I got it on DVD, and when I sat down and watched it I found it to be… well, it’s a very well-made film, but also a rather strange and not entirely unproblematic one. Permit me to explain.

Aaron Taylor-Johnson (as I believe we are now obliged to refer to him) plays Dave Lizewski, a nondescript New York teenager who – for no particular reason other than a vague sense of moral outrage – decides to become the masked vigilante Kick-Ass. The fact that his initial efforts usually result in his being severely beaten or almost killed do not dissuade him.

However, Kick-Ass has timed his venture into superherodom poorly, for long-suffering crime boss Frank D’Amico (hardest working man in showbiz Mark Strong) is finding his operation under attack from a masked man who is keeping a much lower profile. Frank, not unreasonably, jumps to the conclusion that Kick-Ass is actually his persecutor, and with the aid of his son Chris (Christopher Mintz-Plasse) sets about laying his hands on him…

Well, here’s the big question about Kick-Ass, if you ask me: just exactly what kind of film is it supposed to be? Is it a straightforward  superhero adventure? Is it a parody of the genre, or a very dark comedy-drama? It’s really difficult to be certain because at different points it seems to be trying to be all these different things.

The thing is, that if you just look at the main storyline about Kick-Ass himself, it’s almost purely an exercise in adolescent male wish-fulfilment, presented unironically: by putting on his costume Dave eventually becomes famous and popular and lands himself a hot girlfriend (Lyndsy Fonseca). All right, he does describe himself as ‘a useless dick in a costume’ at one point (which strikes me as being pretty much on the money) and he does spend most of the film almost getting killed, but in the end he is victorious and gets pretty much everything he wants. A lot of the initial reviews of Kick-Ass focussed on the violence and profanity of the film, both of which are far beyond what you’d see in – for example – a Marvel Studios film, but if you look past that this is fundamentally one of the most conventional superhero films to be released in recent years. If anything it’s a pastiche rather than a parody, and the scenes with Dave himself aren’t really funny enough for it work as a comedy.

On the other hand, the scenes with Nicolas Cage and Chloe Grace Moretz as other crimefighters Big Daddy and Hit-Girl genuinely are darkly funny, mainly due to the dissonance between their clear devotion to one another as father and daughter, and their equal obsession with guns and violence. Cage’s performance is way out there, but it still just about works, while Moretz is also very good. I think it’s fair to say that Hit-Girl is the character from this movie who everyone remembers, and that’s not simply because she’s an eleven-year-old gun-toting masked vigilante.

Of course, I suppose we need to at least address the question of all the various scenes in which Hit-Girl swears like a trooper and gorily disposes of dozens of bad guys. It’s certainly not the case that she’s intentionally being presented as a sexualised character, which is one of the Daily Mail‘s main problems with the film, but on the other hand you’ve got a pre-teenaged girl being presented as, basically, a killing machine, and the film’s attitude seems to be ‘Hey, isn’t this cool?’ For the most part the film is so dynamic, and the action well-enough choreographed, for this not to be a problem, but I did find the climactic scenes in which Moretz and Strong violently take each other on a little troubling to watch.

I suppose if I had to sum up my issues with Kick-Ass, it would be that whole ‘Hey, isn’t this cool?’ thing. There is the odd, sometimes slightly sentimental moment of genuine idealism, emotion or poignancy, but the rest of the time it’s much more about what’s cool, or transgressively funny: I suppose I would say it’s a bit too cynical for my tastes. That said, Vaughn directs with his usual flair and energy and the script hangs together quite well. As I said, this is an impressively assembled piece of work, I’m just a bit dubious about the sentiment behind it.

Haven’t seen Kick-Ass 2 yet, as I say, but what the hell, I’ll make some predictions: it’ll be much, much more about Hit-Girl (and it’ll be interesting to see how they address the fact that Moretz has, um, matured a bit in the last three years), the transgressive stuff will be more OTT, and it’ll be trying even harder to have its cake and eat it by claiming to be some sort of ironic commentary on superhero stories while actually being a very down-the-line example of one. We shall see.

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Well, the Christmas blockbuster season is descending upon us as usual, and it’s interesting to consider how it compares to its larger summer cousin: fewer films, obviously, perhaps slightly more aimed at a younger audience (not that many summer movies aren’t utterly juvenile), sometimes more of an aura of quality (no doubt due to the overlap with the release of Oscar-bait movies). But apart from that the big Christmas releases aren’t that different from the summer ones – there’s the usual reliance on sequels, series, and big-name properties (skewed more towards the traditionally literary than comic books, though).

Which makes Hugo a bit of an anomaly, in some ways – while this is a big, lavish movie with virtually an all-star cast, it’s based on a novel that I’d never heard of (and I suspect most other people haven’t, either). So what are the makers relying on to draw in the crowds? Well, it seems to me they’re relying on something rather unusual – not just the use of 3D, which is not the novelty it was even last year, but 3D in the hands of a master director, an acclaimed film-maker not usually associated with what is – let’s face it – still a gimmick.

The man in question is Martin Scorsese, someone with a stellar reputation but not much associated with family entertainment. Parents need not fear: no-one’s head is put in a vice, no pimps are executed, and no-one gouges one of their own eyes out with a knife. What we get instead is the classically-told tale of Hugo (Asa Butterfield), an orphan living in the main railway station of Paris in the late 1920s. Hugo is the last of a family of clockmakers – his mother died when he was very young (i.e., off-screen), and his father (Jude Law, briefly) in a museum fire. Now in the nominal care of his boozy uncle (Ray Winstone, even more briefly), he is maintaining all the clocks, while trying to avoid the station Inspector Gustav (Sacha Baron Cohen) and repair the automaton (a clockwork man who basically looks like Maria from Metropolis‘ grandad) he and his father were renovating when he died.

Hugo’s quest for parts for the automaton leads him to meet the proprietor of the station toy booth (Ben Kingsley) – well, basically he steals clockwork toys. The old man, when he learns of Hugo’s obsession, is inexplicably appalled, and confiscates Hugo’s notebooks about the mechanism. Hugo is forced to ask the old man’s god-daughter (Chloe Grace Moretz) for help, and together they set out to discover the secret of the automaton and its connection to the toy store owner…

Well, as you possibly tell, there’s not a huge amount there that screams ‘big movie potential’ – but if Hugo proves anything, it’s that it’s not what you’ve got, but what you do with it. In almost every department this is a film made to the highest possible standards. Scorsese demonstrates his usual utter mastery of composition and camera movement, John Logan’s script is dense with imagery and detail, yet still always unfolds cleanly and clearly, and the production values are faultless.

The actors are all impeccable too, for all that there is something inescapably odd about a film set in Paris, featuring an almost exclusively British cast, who all speak in an American idiom (so ‘figure something out’ rather than ‘work something out’, ‘get mad’ rather than ‘get angry’, and so on), but this is only a minor distraction most of the time. Possibly more of an issue is Sacha Baron Cohen’s very broadly comedic performance – very much Basil Fawlty meets Inspector Clouseau – which seems to have wandered in from a rather less subtle movie.

There is real strength in depth amongst the supporting cast, too – popping up here are the likes of Richard Griffiths, Frances de la Tour, Helen McCrory, Emily Mortimer, and – a total surprise to me – Christopher Lee, as potent a screen presence as ever (and still obviously knowing his own mind: he’s the only person present who actually does a French accent).

And what about the 3D? Well, it’s an integral part of the conception of the movie, as far as I can see, but the strange thing is that after a while I barely noticed it was there. The even stranger thing is that, for me, if 3D has a future then Scorsese has shown us the way to it – not intrusive or gimmicky, but considered and understated. It’s a fundamental element of the movie – the opening sequence of this movie is a stunning piece of work, and nothing that follows quite matches it – but it is only an element, rather than the sine qua non of the film.

The 3D is also pertinent to one of the themes of the film, which is the story of the birth of cinema – Scorsese is using cutting-edge 21st century movie technology to illuminate the earliest history of 19th century films. A number of these very old films are referenced in the course of the narrative, which will doubtless please other movie geeks. Then again, already being aware of the massive achievements of the first great movie directors, I was perhaps more ready than most to indulge the film in what at times feels like a slightly didactic and digressive commentary on the subject. Certainly the second half of the film, though finishing strongly and satisfyingly, lacks the involving narrative drive of the first.

If I had to describe Hugo concisely, I would have to say that it rather reminded of a live-action Studio Ghibli movie. This may sound strange, but this movie has had the same meticulous attention to detail lavished upon it, it has the same eye for the baroque and mildly grotesque, and the same classic narrative virtues. It also has virtually no trace of an American sensibility beyond a few idiosyncrasies amongst the dialogue – not in and of itself a good thing, of course, but refreshingly different from most films of this size. But then this is a refreshingly different, very well-made, and consistently interesting and enjoyable film.

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