“What’s this movie about again?” my friend asked me at the ticket booth of the theatre.
I bluntly replied, “It’s about a hobo kid in a train station” and then laughed nonchalantly.
But in fact, this movie is much more than the misadventures of a homeless kid living in Paris’ Gare du Nord (Northern Railway Station). No, this is a film of romance, mystery, family, and historical technology. Fascinating as it is French-artistic, “Hugo” will leave you satisfied.
There are actually a surprising amount of recognizable faces from a variety of films and cinema franchises, including Jude Law (John Watson in “Sherlock Holmes”), Ben Kingsley(title role in “Gandhi”), Christopher Lee (Sauroman in “Lord of the Rings”), Ray Winstone (Mac in “Indiana Jones and the Crystal Skull”), Angus Barnett (Royal Marine in “Pirates of the Caribbean”), Helen McCroy ( Narcissa Malfoy in “Harry Potter”), Frances de la Tour (Madame Maxine in “Harry Potter”), Richard Griffiths (Uncle Vernon in “Harry Potter”) and Sacha Baron Cohen (Signor Pirelli in “Sweeney Todd”). Lead actor Asa Butterfield himself is also already a veteran at the age of 14 (even though he looks about 9). As everyone here has been acting for years, there are no real complaints about anyone’s performance and nothing but praise to give to the main roles.
This movie takes place mainly in the Gare du Nord, where an orphan boy, who looks vaguely like a young Gerard Way, has been secretly living in and maintaining the clocks even after the uncle he was apprentice to disappears mysteriously. On the side, Hugo Cabret has been tinkering with a project left over from his father, a run-down “automaton”, that he keeps up on by stealing parts from Georges Méliès’ toy shop in the station. When Méliès discovers Hugo’s pocketbook full of sketches of the project and threatens to burn it, Hugo ends up as his apprentice and befriends his goddaughter, Isabelle, a sheltered girl with a love of books. Hugo and Isabelle finish repairing the automaton, but find that it holds secrets far broader than they had imagined. The rest of the film is a low-action mystery and a story of one boy’s search for a place to belong.
Martin Scorsese had made a masterpiece here. Not only is the ambience spot-on, but the script is nearly flawless and the casting impeccable. There are no extra frills here, but with a story this complex, frills aren’t really needed. Shot in an artistic manner perhaps hinting at the glamour and romance of Paris itself, one finds themself completely transported into Hugo’s world, only to be released when the credits scroll and the lights go up. This is not a movie you’ll find yourself talking through this one…there is nothing to criticize, nor will any of your conversations be as fascinating as this.
However, this is assuming that “Hugo” is “your type of movie”. Many action lovers will find this film boring and uneventful and horror and suspense lovers will find their heart rates actually going down. This is not a “film for everyone” as so many others boast, but instead a picture for those with a taste for travel, British accents and clockwork. Still, Scorsese makes what could’ve been an extremely boring movie vastly entertaining. It’s a good family movie, but not too sappy.
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