Directed by: Martin Scorsese
Written by: Brian Selznick, John Logan
Starring: Asa Butterfield, Ben Kingsley, Chloe Moretz, Christopher Lee, Emily Mortimer, Frances de la Tour, Helen McCrory, Jude Law, Ray Winstone, Richard Griffiths, Sacha Baron Cohen
Directed by Martin Scorsese
Written by Brian Selznick and John Logan
Starring Asa Butterfield, Chloe Moretz, Ben Kingsley, Helen McCrory and Sacha Baron Cohen
Set in 1930’s Paris, orphan Hugo (Butterfield) lives with his uncle in the railway station, where he maintains the station’s clocks. Obssessed with a broken automaton, a clockwork robot which his late father found, the young boy sets his sights on fixing it in the hope of receiving a message from his father. On his quest he meets Isabelle, the god-daughter of a grumpy toy booth owner and together they embark on an adventure to discover the hidden secrets of the automaton.
Before I saw the trailer I thought ‘urgh, a kids movie’. The last family film I enjoyed was Jumanji and since then there’s been allsorts of sickly, cheesey family fun that turns my hardnened, bloodthirsty stomach. However, I watched the trailer and thought “hmmm… this looks well made. It doesn’t look half bad”. The lead actor playing the titular character was Asa Butterfield, who I’d previously seen in an episode of Ashes to Ashes and as Bruno in Boy With The Striped Pajamas. So I thought what the heck, I’ll give it a go. Directed by one of the greatest directors alive, Martin Scorses, I thought it must be a gem. And I wasn’t wrong.
Sat in the cinema, my eyes widened with the appearance of the Infinitum Nihil logo, which is the production company of a certain Mister Johnny Depp and if Depp’s put his money into something, I’m sure it’s going to be good. We are greeted with stunning visuals of 1930’s Paris, a bustling train station where many interesting characters dwell. Frances de la Tour or as I call her ‘Miss Jones’ from her days in Rising Damp, is splendid as the madame who spends time in the cafe with her long haired daschund that takes a dislike to her admirer, Richard Griffiths. Pretty Emily Mortimer sells her sweet flowers inside the station and catches the eye of wounded station inspector, Sacha Baron Cohen (doing a slight ‘Allo Allo’ turn), who provides the laughs and plays the pantomime villain. With the aid of his energetic but intimidating doberman, Cohen walks the station floor, looking to catch any roaming, unaccompanied children and lock them in his cell. One young boy who doesn’t wish to be caught is Hugo Cabret, an orphan who lives inside the walls of the railway station, secretly maintaining and fixing the station clocks, a job which his drunken uncle should have done. Living alone after his uncle disappeared one night, Hugo’s only friend is a broken automaton, a clockwork, human looking robot which his clockmaker father found when working at the museum. When working, the automaton writes with a pen, but the crucial part need to fix the bot is a heart shaped key. Hugo survives in the station by pinching freshly baked croissants and stealing clockwork toys from a toy booth within the station. He finally gets caught when trying to pinch a windup mouse toy and the aging shopkeeper, played by a remarkable Sir Ben Kingsley, is furious with the young thief. The toy shop owner conviscates Hugo of his book full of drawings of the automaton and in order to get it back, he must work for the elderly gentleman repairing the broken toys. Through working for the toy shop owner, Hugo meets his god-daughter Isabelle, who promises to help Hugo get his book back and helps to discover the hidden secrets of the automaton. Together they embark on a voyage of discovery as they uncover secret lives and the connection between Isabel’s god-father, Papa Georges and the automaton.
To tell any more about this film would be spoiling it, but I can say this is a true voyage to the beginning of cinema, where dreams were created. Scorsese has made a wonderful film that is a love letter to film itself and he does so in such a creative and fulfilling way. I made the mistake of thinking this is a kids movie. Maybe it’s too much to say it’s a family film, but that’s the nearest description as everyone in the family can enjoy Hugo. However, it will be adults who will appreciate the story. The kids will enjoy the initial adventure and the chases between the Station Inspector and Hugo, but may get a little bored and confused with the latter half of the film. To adults though, they will enjoy the movie as a whole, especially it’s attention to detail in the latter half were the real visit to the origin of movies is explored.
The cast were outstanding. Sir Ben Kingsley is one of the greatest actors in the business and he excels as Papa Georges. The two child actors, Asa Butterfield and Chloe Moretz, are suitably enchanting and can carry with weight of the movie and make it believable. There were a few odd moments were Asa struggled to convey emotion without looking cheesey, but on the whole he made a real effort and was enjoyable to watch.
I’d describe Hugo as a feel good film which is also very educational. I must admit that I wasn’t very knowledgable about the origins of cinema before Hugo, apart from the odd film, but after watching it, I have been blessed with new knowledge and fondness at how it began and how film has progressed today.
This is definitely a must see film. Forget the curse of horrid family films of this century. Hugo has broken the curse and brought new life and audience to witness it’s cinematic glory.