Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Movie Review: Hugo

Image source: wikipedia.org

I never imagined that a day would come when I would be wearing 3D glasses and watching a movie in the comfort of my own home but here I am writing this review after doing just that. Technology I tell you....what will they think of next!  

So, me and DH received two free 3D movies  along with the accessories when we bought our new Sony Bravia 3D TV set and one of the movies was Hugo. Having not watched a movie in several weeks thanks to a packed schedule, I thought it was high time to soak up some movie magic (and what better than a Martin Scorsese movie in 3D to do that?!).

*****Spoiler Alert*****
Hugo Cabret (Asa Butterfield) is a young boy living in a clock tower in the Paris train station. His widowed father (Jude Law) was a clock-maker who died in a museum fire leaving Hugo an orphan. Before his death, Hugo's father starts to repair an old abandoned automaton (mechanical man) which he finds in the museum.  The automaton, if fixed properly, should be able to write with a pen. Both father and son share a fascination for fixing things and used to spend a lot of time together indulging in their common hobby. However, Hugo's father's sudden death results in his work remaining incomplete and Hugo is left only with the automaton as a companion. Hugo's inebriated uncle Claude, a watchmaker, takes him to the Paris train station and orders him to take over his responsibility of taking care of the clocks. So, Hugo attends to his "job" while living in the shadows, observing the goings-on of the train station through peep holes in the tower. He needs to steal food to fend for himself and has to constantly keep a watch out for the nosey station inspector (Sacha Baron Cohen) and his annoying canine companion who thrive on catching young orphans and packing them off to the orphanage. Hugo desperately seeks to repair the automaton with the hope that it contains a message from his father. The automaton has an odd heart shaped key-hole that previously had his father flummoxed and Hugo constantly ponders over it. His only other guide is a small notebook which his father used to draw diagrams and scribble notes on fixing the automaton. He steals small mechanical parts from a toy store inside the train station owned by the grumpy Papa Georges (Ben Kingsley) in an attempt to fix his automaton. Papa Georges however realizes what is going on and finally catches him in the act. He asks Hugo to turn out his pockets and finds the stolen items along with the notebook which alarms him so much that he sends Hugo away empty handed calling him a thief and liar. Papa George's young goddaughter Isabelle (Chloe Grace Moretz) is a sharp and curious young girl who strikes a friendship with Hugo. She encourages him to get the notebook back from Papa Georges. Papa Georges reluctantly agrees to give him the notebook if he works in the toy store repairing things thereby recovering the amount of money that he stole. Hugo agrees and spends his days working in the toy store and taking care of the clocks in the train station. The days go by and as Hugo and Isabelle's friendship blossoms, he reveals to her about his love for movies (inherited from his father) and remembers with an air of melancholy how he and his father would go to the movies together. Hugo is shocked to hear that Isabella hasn't watched a single movie because disapproving Papa Georges has forbidden her to do so. He manages to get her interested in it by stealthily taking her to a movie and constantly talking about it. He tells her about his father's first experience of watching a movie 'A trip to the Moon' in which a rocket goes straight into the eye of the moon. One day Hugo discovers a heart shaped key around Isabella's neck and persuades her to give it to him to see if it activates the automaton. Both of them watch in amazement as the automaton begins to draw. It draws the picture of a rocket hitting the eye of the moon and signs the picture as Georges Méliès. Both youngsters are perplexed by this development and go to the library to find out more. After finding a book that has the information they are looking for and unexpectedly bumping into the book's author Rene Tabard (Michael Stuhlbarg), they reach a startling realization that Papa Georges was the director of 'A trip to the Moon' and directed and acted in about 100 movies (alongside his wife) before World War I broke out. They learn that Papa Georges is widely believed to have died in World War I by the outside world. Hugo mulls over what has happened and feels that his purpose in life could be to "fix" things. He tells Isabelle that people are like machines - if they do not do what they are supposed to do, then they are as good as broken. He feels that is what may have happened to Papa George. Together with Isabelle and Rene, Hugo makes Papa George realize what a gift he has and reinstate his faith and passion for his craft. It is revealed later that Papa George was the inventor who built the automaton and later went on to more  artistic pursuits like cinema but when the World War I broke out, there was no one left to appreciate his work and he was left jobless and penniless (having had to sell most of his possessions including his prized movie collection and automaton) because of which he began to develop a loathing for everything related to cinema. The movie ends on a happy note with Papa George being facilitated in front of a large distinguished audience for his immense contribution to cinema and him thanking Hugo in an acknowledgement speech for "fixing" him. 

Let me start my train of thoughts by saying that this is one very unconventional movie. Personally, it is nothing like anything else that I have seen before (which I guess can be said of most Martin Scorsese movies!).  If you thought it would be a adventure story about an orphan boy in a fantasy word....WRONG! This is essentially a movie about movies. It may be fair to say that his movie was made more for the filmmaker, critics and hard-core movie history buffs than the general viewing audience. Georges Méliès was a French illusionist and filmmaker and a pioneer in the substitution stop trick special effect. He was one of the first filmmakers to use multiple exposures, time-lapse photography, dissolves, hand-painted colour in his work. Scorsese had paid homage to the history of movie making and a special tribute to Méliès and blended it into an unusual albeit heart-warming story. I remember shedding a tear or two. The downside of the movie firstly is that, in parts, the story drags and meanders which makes you wonder as to where it is heading and secondly, most of the supporting cast seem dispensable as they offer no significant contributions to the main plot. The cinematography and art direction is breath-taking. It is no surprise that  this movie swept the Academy awards in that particular category. The 3D effects makes it all the more visually dazzling. The movie transports you into the captivating era of the 1930's and earlier. The color, costumes, make-up and set design is nothing short of genius. The background score composed by Howard Shore is enchanting. The child actors Asa Butterfield and Chloe Grace Moretz are charming, Ben Kingsley is brilliant (as always) and Sacha Baron Cohen is fun to watch.

So, that sums up my thoughts on Hugo. Keep in mind that young children might not understand or even enjoy this movie. If you get what the filmmaker is trying to portray and you appreciate the diverse aspects of cinema, you will like this movie

My rating for this movie would be 3 out of 5

Get your 3D glasses on and head for Hugo! 


  1. Nice review. We watched this movie last month and liked it too :) Btw watch midnight in paris, though a bit slow its nice in its own way.


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