Anthony's Film Review

Hugo (2011)

Martin Scorsese directs a family film that is moving and unforgettable...

Hugo is a family movie that has the look and feel of a fantasy story, yet it is not. You won't find magical spells, mythical creatures, fantastic lands, or the like in this movie, nor will you see science-fiction elements like artificial intelligence, robots, and spaceships. Rather, it's a story that is set in the real world, in 1930s Paris. But don't let that discourage you. Hugo has a lot of imagination, the story is truly remarkable, and the characters really come alive. In fact, this film is a lot better than many family films of the fantasy and sci-fi genres.

The title character of Hugo, played by 14-year-old actor Asa Butterfield, is a boy who has been orphaned since the death of his father. He lives within a utility room at a Paris train station while keeping its clock functioning to avoid suspicion from the hundreds of people passing through the station. However, he does have to steal food to survive and may take other things without detection. But one day, when Hugo tries to steal something from a toy shop, its shopkeeper, Georges Méliès, played very well by Ben Kingsley, catches Hugo and develops an intense dislike of the boy.

There is a bit of mystery, however. Hugo possesses a notebook containing blueprints of some type of mechanical contraption, and Georges wants to burn it. Why would he want to destroy something that belongs to a young boy? Is it something that would hurt the old man so much in some way? That's something we the audience have to wait to see. Thankfully, the film moves along well, keeping us engaged. The plot soon introduces another character, Georges's goddaughter Isabelle (played by Chloë Grace Moretz), whom Hugo asks for help in order to prevent the burning of his notebook.

At this point, I'll talk about the plot a bit more and then stop to avoid spoiling all of the wonderful events that unfold. Hugo owns an automaton, a mechanical man, that his father tried to fix but did not finish before he died. Hugo, with the help of Isabelle, makes the automaton functional, and what it does next, over several minutes, is a beautiful thing to watch. It's a scene that I can never forget. What's even better is where the story goes from there. There's another mystery presented for us, and we eagerly await what Hugo and Isabelle will discover. Again, I won't spoil it. But you know what? I'll give you two hints: Hugo will eventually help someone in a tremendous way, and the film celebrates the human imagination behind great art.

Let me say one thing about the cast. Everyone does a great job. I'm not just talking about the two child actors and Ben Kingsley. I also enjoyed the performances of Sacha Baron Cohen as a train station inspector (a comical role that is a bit reminiscent of Borat), Christopher Lee as a librarian, and Jude Law as Hugo's father (a brief but still vital role). As for Martin Scorsese, who previously directed movies such as GoodFellas and The Departed, I'm amazed at how well he directed Hugo. The scenes are executed deliberately for us to connect emotionally with the film.

Hugo is engaging, powerful, and memorable for both kids and adults. It's also visually pleasing, with the use of 3-D in certain shots of this otherwise live-action film, though that's not the real treat of Hugo. It's the story and the characters, which are what really matter. Given how much I nodded and applauded once it ended, Hugo is the kind of film that deserves at least several awards, big or small. It is a masterpiece that works on many levels.

Anthony's Rating:

For more information about Hugo, visit the Internet Movie Database.


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