Hugo in 3D (2011)

Hugo Cabret (Asa Butterfield), orphaned after his father (Jude Law) was killed in a fire at the museum where he works, has unofficially inherited his watchmaker uncle’s (Ray Winstone) duties at one of Paris’ busies railway stations. Forced to feed off the scraps of the commuters and the professionals working throughout the station, Hugo has only an incomplete automoton for company as he struggles to finish his late-fathers restorative work between his absent uncle’s duties, his daily foragings and – perhaps most important of all – his occasional trips to the cinema. After having been caught by the station’s toy shop owner (Ben Kingsley) trying to steal machine parts and instruments, and subsequently introduced to the old man’s god-daughter (Chloë Grace Moretz), he begins an apprenticeship which will ultimately change all of their lives forever.

And to think, I wasn’t even going to watch Hugo. With only the film’s trailer to go on, I quickly dismissed it as twee children’s fodder, not even the knowledge that it was Martin Scorsese’s first foray into family friendly filmmaking seemed enough to sway me from my indifference. Good thing, then, that the country’s critics stood up and took collective notice, taking every opportunity to praise the piece and demand that anyone who really loves cinema go and see it immediately. While I’m not quite willing to cry masterpiece, or rethink my own Top 10 list for 2011, I’m certainly glad that I didn’t let this one slip me by.

I was hooked from the very beginning, with an intricate set of cogs and pistons morphing expertly into the city of Paris. From our omniscient vantage point, we are taken into the streets and through the atrium of a bustling train station before finally settling on the orphaned eyes of Hugo Cabaret. It is a phenomenal opening sequence, one which efficiently introduces us to the film’s environment and hints at the inventive and intriguing ways in which Scorsese will come to utilise the third dimension.

A celebration of imagination in all of its forms, Hugo is an absolute delight. While it might start out as a relatively unremarkable tale of love and loss, a human Mouse Hunt, as the audience is brought up to speed on how Hugo happened to wind up living in the walls of a Parisian train station, the story soon opens up to encompass Isabelle’s love of books, Hugo’s love of movies and Georges Méliès’ devotion to the art of filmmaking itself. It is once the film’s focus spreads beyond the loss of Hugo’s father that the film truly takes flight, its recreation of historic cinematic moments an absolute wonder to behold; from imagined train crashes to a daring clock-face escape, Hugo is never short of spectacular.

Naturally, with a focus so wide, Scorsese inevitably winds up spreading himself a little thin. Jude Law, Ray Winstone and Christopher Lee barely cameo, while each of the other characters drawn together within the clockwork of the central train station struggle to make much of an impression. There is nothing particularly memorable about Richard Griffiths, Emily Mortimer or Frances de la Tour, with Sasha Baron Cohen falling back on a leg brace for a jarringly slapstick attempt to make an impact. The film’s emotional centre lies in the surrogate family of Butterfield, Moretz, Kingsley and Helen McCrory, and only once the film realises this does it reach such heights of splendeur.

Hugo, then, is a beautiful and balanced slice of nostalgia, its understanding of destiny and happiness both timeless and charming. Whatever the failings of the story – that it lacks a definitive throughline – is nevertheless an affecting and intriguing experience. Scorsese’s own, intoxicating love of cinema shines through, making this perhaps the most heart felt and personal movies of his career. As one man’s ode to the defining love of his life, a dramatised, whirlwind history of the movies for the next generation of moviegoers, it is damn near perfect.

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About popcornaddiction
I am a psychology graduate, a News Writer for HeyUGuys/BestforFilm and, most importantly, a hopeless popcorn addict.

3 Responses to Hugo in 3D (2011)

  1. Pingback: December 2011 – I Agree It’s Not My Best Disguise. « popcornaddict

  2. Pingback: February 2012 – Wow, that was such an expensive looking explosion! « popcornaddict

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