“Hugo” Movie Review


      Martin Scorsese’s “Hugo” is a grand slam of a film for those of us who truly appreciate the many details of the art form that is film making.  The film is based on the novel “The Invention of Hugo Cabret” by Brian Selznick and is adapted for the screen with precision by John Logan.  Like the gears and clocks seen in the film, the exceptional cast blends together seamlessly with the vast settings in glorious 3D.  I normally avoid the 3D versions of films, especially when they are not shot with 3D cameras.  I wasn’t surprised the best film I’ve seen use 3D since “Avatar” would be constructed by the old pro himself, Martin Scorsese.  His vision, in a strong departure from his normal fare, is the driving force behind this masterpiece that honors the dawn of filmmaking in a way no other film has.

     Hugo is a young boy who lives within the walls of a train station in 1930s Paris.  Not long ago his father died and he was left with his Uncle, who is charged with maintaining and winding the many large clocks within the station.  With his father also a clock maker, Hugo continues to learn from his Uncle until one day he disappears.  Hugo, not wanting to become an orphan, continues his Uncle’s job and lives by navigating through a maze of slides, narrow corridors, and clock gears.  He feeds himself by stealing food from various restaurants in the station and is constantly hiding from the Station Inspector, played by Sacha Baron Cohen.

     The one thing Hugo possesses in remembrance of his father is a automaton, a type of robot.  Hugo and his father had worked tirelessly to fix the automaton, but with his father’s untimely death, the silver human like figure was left broken and was missing a key to turn it on.  In the station, Hugo meets the owner of a toy store as he is caught trying to steal parts that may help him repair the automaton.  As played by Ben Kingsley, the toy store owner comes down hard on Hugo for stealing and takes a notebook left to him by his father which contains the instructions for repairing the automaton.

     In an effort to get the notebook back, Hugo meets Isabelle (Chloe Grace Moretz), who is the god daughter of the toy store owner.  Together, they are introduced to each other’s worlds as Hugo shows her the many clocks he is responsible for and she shows him the libraries she explores.  Ultimately, they discover the grumpy toy store owner is the pioneering French filmmaker George Melies, who is most famous for his short film “A Trip to the Moon.”  Most film buffs will likely remember the scene of a rocket seemingly propelled from earth and poking the Man in the Moon in the eye.  It was the film considered as the very dawn of Science Fiction and here are our two heroes staring the man responsible right in the face.

     Through flashback sequences, we are then taken on a trip through the makings of the first working movie studio and the many silent films George Melies created and we are told he made over 500 films.  One of the most striking tidbits is where we are shown in order to make the films appear in color, each frame had to be hand tinted in what had to be a painstaking process, but nonetheless a huge step forward at the time.  We learn  the war caused people to lose interest in his films and sent him into a deep depression.  A depression which he would remain in until he meets Hugo.

     “Hugo” is one of those films which only come along once in a generation.  It is a perfect film in nearly every way.  The 3D in this film doesn’t pop out at you like it does in superhero films, it merely enhances the scenery.  The opening sequence sets the stage immediately for how the 3D will be used when you start in the skies of 1930s Paris in what is a glorious cityscape and are led to and through the train station until the camera stops at one of the clocks where Hugo is observing the goings on.  The 3D doesn’t jump out at you, but you’d swear you were actually there for the ride.  In many ways, that is exactly what “Hugo” is, a ride through the rich history of film, as seen through the eyes of a true hero.  GRADE: A