[*** stars / *****]
No f*** word, no murders, no gangsters, no outrageous anger, no catharsis, no greed, no blood spouting, no gun-wielding violence in a Martin Scorsese film! Yes, you read that f****** right!
In 1931, twelve-year-old Hugo (Asa Butterfield) anonymously maintains clocks at a Railway Station in France. Orphaned and taken over by his now missing drunkard uncle, Hugo spends his time snooping at the people around him from his hidden residence inside the station. These include the tough station master (Sacha Baron Cohen) and his intimidating dog, an elderly couple, and an old man (Ben Kingsley) manning the toy store.
Hugo (2011) originally released in 3D, is a heart-warming adaptation of Brian Selznick's fiction book The Invention of Hugo Cabret.
The Relatable Factor
Scorsese did suggest in an interview that Hugo's isolated life reminded him of his own childhood as an asthmatic kid who was forced to stay indoors. Another intimate connection was Scorsese's then 12-year-old daughter. The director's own passion for restoring rare, prized cinema seems to be a deciding factor too. After all Hugo celebrates the origin of film making, the magic of going to the movies and honors Georges Méliès, the amazingly creative, special effects pioneer.
Asa Butterfield is particularly haunting and charming as Hugo, as is Chloë Grace Moretz as Hugo's friend Isabella. Ben Kingsley, Jude Law, Christopher Lee and Sacha Baron Cohen shine in their parts too.
Hugo is a big bulge of a surprise from Scorsese, charming, beautiful, poetic and exquisitely cinematic. In retrospect, for adult viewers, the film's final act may seem predictable. But for a children's film, it's a great watch, a potential masterpiece.