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573 of 627 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars _This_ is why we go to the movies, December 8, 2011
This review is from: Hugo (DVD)
Different people go to the movies for different reasons. Some of us want to be entertained. Some of us want to be dazzled. Some of us want to be engaged by a story, or by characters that stick in the mind after the film is done. Some of us want to be transported to a different time or place. And some of us want to see talented actors create a bit of magic in the hands of a masterful director. Martin Scorsese's Hugo does all of these things. It is, more than any other film I've seen this year, _why_ we go to the movies.

The film is based on the novel The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick. If you've read the book, then you know the story already, but for everyone else I am going to be careful here and not reveal anything that might spoil the film. I will say that Hugo is about many things, but at its heart, it is about obsession, discovery and how one person's story can lead to - and become entwined with - another's.

The film is set in Paris in the 1930's, in a railway station where an orphan boy named Hugo (engagingly played by Asa Butterfield) lives in the workspaces in the station walls and in the station's central clocktower. He spends most of his time keeping the station's clocks running (so that no one will come into the walls or the tower and discover his hiding places) and pursuing his obsession - fixing a man-shaped automaton designed to write with a pen which his father (Jude Law) had found in a museum and was trying to repair when he was killed in a fire. To feed himself, Hugo scrounges and pilfers food from the various food shops in the station, which draws the attention of the station inspector (Sacha Baron Cohen). To feed his efforts to repair the automaton, Hugo steals parts from a toy shop in the station, run by the elderly Papa Georges (Ben Kingsley), who finally catches him in the act. He is befriended though by Papa Georges' god-daughter, a girl his age named Isabelle (ChloŽ Grace Moretz), who ends up helping Hugo pursue his obsession of fixing the automaton. Which, Hugo is convinced, has some secret message for him left by his late father. Where this ultimately leads... you'll have to see the film. Telling you here would only ruin the film's joy of discovery.

There are so many good things about Hugo as a film that it's hard to know where to begin. I can at least start by saying that the look of the film itself is dazzling. Scorsese creates worlds within worlds, taking you first back to Paris in the 1930's and from there into Hugo's hidden world within the walls and clock tower of the train station. And from there, other places that are equally wondrous. The 3D is not wasted here and truly adds to the feel of Hugo's world of narrow passages and massive time-keeping mechanisms with their enormous but intricate gears, springs and pendulums all in motion. And Howard Shore's beautifully crafted musical score evokes the period throughout the film, adding to the feeling of being transported to a different time and place.

Another thing that makes Hugo so worth seeing is that Scorsese is one of those directors who can bring out the best performance an actor has in them, which he does a magnificent job of here, from veteran actors like Ben Kingsley and Christopher Lee to comparative newcomers like Asa Butterfield and ChloŽ Grace Moretz.

And just as the look of the sets shows his attention to detail, the populating of the world with characters shows it as well as he makes the train station come alive with its regular denizens, from Sacha Boren Cohen's officious station inspector with his leg brace and the pretty young flower seller Lisette (Emily Mortimer) he secretly yearns for, to the comic attempts at romance between Monsieur Frick (Richard Griffiths), an elderly newspaper seller who keeps attempting to woo Madame Emile (Frances de la Tour), a cafe owner who dotes on her dog who unfortunately attacks Monsieur Frick every time he comes near. Scorsese also works in some famous historical Parisian residents of the period into the background, like jazz guitarist Django Reinhardt (Emil Lager), artist Salvador Dali (Ben Addis) and writer James Joyce (Robert Gill).

Highly, highly recommended for anyone who enjoys movies, and an absolute must-see for anyone who loves movies and what they mean to us.
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Showing 1-9 of 9 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Feb 3, 2012 9:41:37 AM PST
Raj says:

Posted on Feb 18, 2012 9:50:03 AM PST
DBF says:
Your critique sounds very professional. I'll buy this movie in 3D

Posted on Feb 28, 2012 5:41:45 PM PST
sooteal says:
Wonderful review! Thank you. This is the first 3D movie that I have seen where I am glad I saw it in 3D. It should have won Best movie of 2011.

Posted on Mar 1, 2012 9:40:26 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Mar 1, 2012 9:49:48 PM PST
orest says:
This was truly a magical movie, and a must to see in 3D on a big screen in the theater. Movies don't get any better than this one, and it truly is why we go to the movies. HUGO is truly a work of art, and Scorsese is a masterful artist. This review captures the reasons why this movie should have been Best Picture of the Year and equally as much Scorsese should have been Best Director. I am glad that it did win several Academy Awards for its technical merits and cinematography, but that did not do it justice! I have not seen THE ARTIST, but can't imagine it can be better than HUGO. I do hope the DVD is able to capture some of the magic, but try to catch in the theater. This review is also very well written and must have been inspired by the movie itself. Job Well Done! NO ONE cound have said it any better! Thanks

Posted on Mar 3, 2012 3:52:45 PM PST
E. Baez says:
As you vowed in an early paragraph, I'm glad that you managed to avoid disclosing anything that might spoil the film! :(

Posted on Mar 16, 2012 7:02:37 PM PDT
Thank you for your excellent review, and for also including a mention of effective 3D format of this film. You should be a professional film critic, if not already.

Posted on May 9, 2012 12:53:41 PM PDT
I don't know if anyone noticed certain details which make this movie much more interesting. For example, just before the two children sneek in to see a movie, there's a poster on the wall behind them. That was painted by French surrealist Rene Magritte for the popular (at that time) magazine "Fantom," which puts the movie in a larger context. Then, the Harold Lloyd movie of 1923, "Safety Last" which the children see is mirrored with the incident in which Hugo hangs from the clock. Also, the city of Paris around the Eiffel Tower is revealed to be clock-like in the way the traffic follows the circular pattern around the tower. There's also much dream imagery of trains which is mirrored in the real trains in the movie and in the famous silent film of the train coming into the station as well as in all the other images of machines such as clocks and toys, especially the toys associated with Georges Millies, the famous French film maker.

Posted on Feb 24, 2013 2:44:15 PM PST
This was a GREAT commentary.....couldn't have stated it better. Totally entertaining film....saw it for the first time on TV last night and anxious to acquire my own DVD to "rerun and rerun" this wonderfully portrayed story. Also plan on reading the book. Thank you. Diane

Posted on Mar 9, 2013 4:47:45 AM PST
Mariel says:
Based on your review, I watched this movie. You were spot on. Probably one of the finest films / stories I've ever had the pleasure of viewing.
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Location: Cambridge, MA United States

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