I’m more used to seeing Martin Scorsese’s darker psychological thrillers rather than whimsical adventure dramas featuring children but upon seeing the trailer, I was set on watching this movie from the get go. When it won five awards in the Oscars, I was doubly intrigued and propelled to watch this visual masterpiece.
Hugo, originally titled The Invention of Hugo Cabret, tells the story of a boy who lives behind the walls of the train station in Paris, secretly winding the clocks to ensure that they run smoothly and that he does not get caught doing it. Hugo used to live with his widowed father, a clockmaker who works for a museum until an accident kills him and leaves Hugo to his drunkard uncle, the train station’s maintenance man who abandons his nephew to perform the tasks that he was hired to do. Left to his own devises, Hugo sets out to fix a unique automaton that his father once brought back with him from the museum in order to find a message from his dad and find his purpose. In so doing, he meets a girl at the station who literally holds the key that could bring the automaton to life. The two strike a friendship and try to discover the mystery behind the origins of the automaton.
As with any other Scorsese movie, Hugo was a wonder of cinematography and filmmaking. Every frame of the movie was a visual treat, and the scoring was also superb. They always managed to support the scenes with the proper mood and tone. Ben Kingsley as Papa George Melies, a shopowner at the station who is intrigued by Hugo’s gifts was excellent throughout the progression of the movie as his connection to the automaton was slowly revealed. Sacha Baron Cohen seemed normal (after playing Borat and Bruno) as the station inspector hell bent on catching Hugo and sending him to the orphanage. The two child stars who led the cast — Asa Butterfield as Hugo (Boy in the Striped Pajamas) and Chloe Moretz (Kick Ass, 500 Days of Summer) could not have done any better as they were able to muster the wonder of discovery and a sense of daring in embarking on a secret adventure required for this feel good film.
Hugo had a bit of a slow pacing in the beginning as the filmmakers established the boy’s life behind the walls in contrast to how big his dreams were. It was a welcome surprise to know that the actual journey to make the automaton work was only the tip of the iceberg and the real adventure was in discovering its connection to one of the main characters of the film. I loved the story’s connection to the beginning of the cinema, how despite its simplicity in the early years, it managed to evoke the same sense of wonder and magic that we feel for the movies of today. Much in parallel with this movie’s journey.
The film had a great build up to its poignant and touching finale. I was actually expecting the worst with a lot of close calls but thankfully, Scorsese went the other way. An excellent film highly recommended for children and adults alike, Hugo is magical.