By Kathryn Schroeder
Released: November 23, 2011
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An orphan (Asa Butterfield) teams up with a girl (Chloe Moretz) to solve a mystery involving his late father, a gruff toy merchant and a heart-shaped lock.

Adapted from the novel: The Invention of Hugo Cabret

App: HUGO - Paramount Digital Entertainment
Film Review
There is a glimmer of nostalgia in Martin Scorses's Hugo. Scorsese is a known supporter of film preservation, and a lover of classic cinema; something that may be seen in every film he has made over an illustrious career. Hugo may well be his homage to cinema itself, as it is filled with small hat tipping's to cinematic history.

Hugo is the story of a young boy, Hugo Cabret (Asa Butterfield), an orphan who came to live in the Central Train Station of Paris, France after his father died unexpectedly. His Uncle worked in the station managing the clocks, and after he disappeared Hugo took over the job; making sure each and every day the clocks ran on schedule, keeping perfect time, so Hugo would not be discovered living alone in the hidden apartment inside the walls of the station. The fear Hugo holds over being discovered is relevant as the Station Inspector (Sacha Baron Cohen) revels in capturing orphans who prowl the station for food, or merely warmth from the cold. Hugo spends his days peering out of the clocks down at the people below in the cafes and shops. His world is small, rarely leaving the station, and it is not until he is caught trying to steal a wind-up mouse from the toy shop owner Georges Melies (Ben Kingsley) that Hugo's life takes an unexpected turn into cinematic history, literally.

For film aficionados Kingsley's character name may be quite suspicious. George Melies was one of the first filmmakers to tell a story on film. His most regarded work A Trip To The Moon is one of the greatest cinematic achievements of all time. It is no coincidence that the character shares the same name as the acclaimed filmmaker, they are one in the same in Hugo. This is part of the mystery Hugo must solve involving an automotom he and his father had been trying to repair before his death. Hugo steals mechanical pieces from Melies' toy shop in order to piece back together the human automotom, hoping it will help him feel less lonely in his lonely world behind the clocks in the walls. With the help of Melies' goddaughter Isabelle (Chloe Grace Moretz) Hugo will solve the mystery of the connection with the automotom and George Melies, and by doing so deliver a splendid homage to classic cinema like only a lover of such like Martin Scorsese can and would achieve.

Hugo becomes a wonderfully nostalgic film by the end; the getting to the wonderment of the story is quite languid and without much exuberance. There is a great deal of introduction to Hugo's world, and an incredible focus on the surroundings he lives in at the train station. Before the opening title of the film there is a magnificent journey by Hugo through the clocks, going through his daily routine, while watching the world unfold beneath him. The train station becomes a central character of the film, its relationship with Hugo marking one of the most important in the film. It is difficult to be engaged while watching the beginning of Hugo because of the distance set apart from Hugo and the world itself. His dependance on the station, and the watching of how he maneuvers within it only holds ones attention for so long. Empathy for Hugo occurs immediately, the sadness Asa Butterfield's eyes portray makes your heart melt for this sad orphaned child. When he meets Isabelle by way of George Melies the "adventure" of solving the mystery of the automotom should heighten your attachment to the story--it does not. Everything occurs quite easily, and there are no great threats or obstacles to overcome.

The greatness of Hugo occurs once George Melies' character is made known to the viewer. Things then become interesting, fascinating really, as the history of this great filmmaker is brought to life on screen. The character of Hugo remains a lonely boy looking for his place, but the real story in Hugo is what it shares about film history, and one of its greatest pioneers in narrative storytelling. For film lovers, who cherish film history and have a deep affection for the look and feel of classic cinema, the final hour of Hugo will seem like the most magical experience you have ever been a part of--you will remember why you love cinema, why you live and breathe to watch a movie, and recall the first time you saw a moving picture with great delight. Hugo is a beautiful movie for classic film lovers; but it is firmly rooted in place for those types of moviegoers, the unfamiliar may not see the magic in Hugo.
If you have seen a Martin Scorcese picture than you have witnessed the near-genius talent of editor Thelma Shoonmaker. A great many Director's, who are in the Auteur category like Scorcese, tend to use the same editor's on all of their movies as they know the director's vision and can use that knowledge to make sure it is captured in every film while editing. Thelma is the best of the best, and Scorcese continues to use her on his films for good reason. In Hugo she takes the beautifully shot images by cinematographer Robert Richardson, and blends them together to create splendid scenes your eyes transfix upon and do not wish to move away from. The opening sequence of Hugo in the wall, with the clocks, is editing gold. The varying angles of the lens get blended together perfectly, taking you from high above Hugo as he ascends the stairs, to him peering out into the snowy Paris night as the Eiffel Tower hangs heavy in the distance. The movement between the mechanical workings of the clocks, the many gears and such, to the vibrance of the train station and then Hugo's sad daunting face tell the story more than dialogue ever could.

Thelma cuts it all together to show the viewer everything they need to know, without a word ever needing to be spoken--and when dialogue is involved it could be discarded. Hugo may as well have been a silent film for how marvelously it shows, not tells, the viewer everything. Scorcese clearly wanted to make magic occur during many a scene, to have people, places, and things mesh together without your eye ever noticing the change in angle, focus, effect, or distance. Thelma cuts Hugo's world together perfectly, and it is magical.


Drama, Fantasy, Animation
Release Date
November 23, 2011
MPAA Rating
Production Designer
Music Score