Review: Hugo


"You've tried to forget the past for so long. Maybe it's time to try and remember."

 Memory is fleeting; it is the residue of times gone by, the glory days, love ones lost to time. Such is the curious story of Hugo Cabret. Movies have the ability to bring people together for a shared experience, one that touches a collective sense of the imagination. Movies can incite desire, anger, joy, and pain, and movies such as Hugo demonstrate the versatility of solid directors. Martin Scorsese has flipped the script quite literally with his newest film Hugo. The director who is most widely known for directing such movies as Goodfellas, Gangs of New York, The Departed, and Cape Fear has delivered to the viewing audience a film for all ages.

 The movie is based on the children’s book The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Sleznick. It was released in 2007 and awarded the Caldecott medal in 2008. The Caldecott medal is awarded to books that demonstrate superior qualities of illustration. Like the book, the movie is filled with scenes of sublime beauty. Sweeping shots of the city of Paris and the train station where Hugo lives and works are but a few of the aesthetic decisions that make this film a must see.

 Scorsese’s film is a meta-film, a film about filmmaking. The subtle mystery of that guides the viewer through the film involves the rediscovery of the work of the multi-talented filmmaker Georges Melies (Ben Kingsley). The idealism prior to WWI is dashed by the realities of war. This leaves a bitter taste in the mouth of the film going public, one which leaves Melies out in the cold.

 The progression of this mystery is best described in a dialogue between Isabelle (Cloe Mortez) and Hugo (Aisa Butterfield).

 Isabelle: "Where do you live? Is it a secret?"

Hugo: "Yes."

Isabelle: "Oh good! I love secrets!"

 The viewer is drawn into an adventure through the mystery of a broken automaton, the function of which no one knows. Hugo’s father (Jude Law) was a clockmaker who was killed in a terrible accident while working at a museum where he found the automaton.  Hugo, who also repairs the clocks in the train station has already set his plan of fixing this automaton into motion when the movie begins. It becomes his chance to continue his dialogue with his father.

 Melies (Kingsley) works in the train station as a toy salesman. Destitute and thought to be dead, he lives out his days selling and repairing toys in the station. Melies as Hugo puts it, has lost his purpose and when you loose your purpose it is like you are broken. Like the mechanical toys, Melies needs repair.

 Hugo: “I like to imagine that the world is one big machine. You know, machines never have any extra parts. They have the exact number and types of parts they need. So I figure if the entire world is a big machine, I have to be here for some reason, too.

 Sacha Baron Coen is fantastic as the station inspector who constantly seeks to catch Hugo in the station. His character evokes both pity and compassion in the viewer. The Borat star is quite surprising in his portrait of such a complex character.

 If you have not heard the Oscar buzz surrounding this movie then you have not been listening close enough. This is a must see holiday movie and one that I am sure to buy. If it tells you anything about the quality of this film, my four year old sat through all two hours and six minutes never once fidgeting or asking to leave.

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