While we usually associate Martin Scorsese’s name with adult films such as “Raging Bull” and “Goodfellas,” Scorsese ventures for the first time into directing a PG movie, complete with 3D technology. His instincts paid off when the film captured five Academy Awards, all behind-the-scene achievements in cinematography, visual effects, art, and sound.
The film takes place in Paris in the 1930s when the main character, Hugo, a 10-year-old boy, is orphaned when his clockmaker father is killed in a fire. His alcoholic uncle Claude is charged with his keeping and teaches Hugo to keep the clocks showing the right time in a train station, before Claude disappears.
Hugo is compelled to live hidden within the works of the clocks, stealing food from the various surrounding shops, while trying to escape the surveillance of the station inspector, played by Sacha Baron Cohen.
Some of the best scenes in “Hugo” involve a mechanical man known as an automaton, which is the only item Hugo has left of his father’s belongings. His father, played by Jude Law, was in the process of trying to fix the complicated automaton with the help of Hugo. They needed a missing key to complete the process.
Hugo develops a friendship with a young girl named Isabelle whose guardian, George Melies, is a shopkeeper in the train station. It is almost too much of a coincidence that Isabelle wears a key around her neck, which — guess what — is the key that starts the automaton’s motions.
When Isabelle invites Hugo to meet her guardian, played by Ben Kingsley, a series of events begins when the guardian takes a dislike to Hugo and insists that Isabelle not see him anymore. However, not only do Hugo and Isabelle unlock the automaton, but also secrets of the past which connect George Melies with the automaton.
The special effects in “Hugo” are fascinating to watch. The automaton actually writes and draws a picture, signing it with George Melies’ name. This entire mystery is eventually solved after the viewer is introduced to George Melies’ accomplishments in his former profession as a film maker.
The film was breathtaking in its technology and fascinating in its denouement. Although the two child actors are relatively unknown, the ploy was an enhancement to the story, enabling it to play out without the distraction of familiar faces. It is one of the few films that holds appeal for both children and adults.
Hugo – 2011