johnlink ranks HUGO (2011)

I’ve been meaning to see HUGO since it came out in theaters. I suppose three years isn’t too bad of a time frame. Being Christmas night the other night, my wife and I were in the mood for a movie with a certain kind of magic. I’m not always a fan of Christmas movies, but there is this whole genre of movies which are made in a way which makes it feel like that sort of a special time. HUGO, fortunately, was one such film.


I watched HUGO (2011) on 12.25.14. It was my first viewing of the film.

Hugo (Asa Butterfield) is a young boy in 1920s France living in a train station. He has no family left, but he does have a job fixing all the clocks in the station. The only problem, naturally, is that no one knows he does this job. He spends his days keeping the clocks running, stealing from vendors, and avoiding the Station Inspector (Sacha Baron Cohen). He spends his nights trying to repair an automaton; a robotic man designed to write something when turned on.

Hugo steals from a shop owner named Georges (Ben Kingsley). In the course of being caught, Georges ends up with Hugo’s last possession from his father: a notebook. George’s goddaughter Isabelle (Chloe Grace Moretz) befriends Hugo and vows to try and help him get it back. All of this is a puzzle geared towards finding out what the automaton does. Or at least that is the bait.

The switch, then, is that Georges is actually famous 1890s-1910s filmmaker Georges Melies. The Melies masterpiece A TRIP TO THE MOON factors prominently in the story. HUGO director Martin Scorsese sold to the public that he was making a movie about a boy in a train station when, really, he was using that as an excuse to make a love letter to early silent film.

One need not have any knowledge of that era of film history to appreciate HUGO. In fact, Scorsese is counting on his audience not having that exposure. The mystery of who Georges actually is works if you don’t know the history. What is marvelous about HUGO, then, is that Scorsese manages to make this mysterious and magical even if you know what the third act twist is going to be. There is enough intrigue about why Melies has become a lowly toy shop owner and why he is running from his past. Knowing that past doesn’t make the movie any less magical.

It is pretty awesome to sit and see scenes from silent movies permeate this thing. While Melies footage factors prominently, there are also cuts of movies like SAFETY LAST featuring Harold Lloyd climbing out on a big clock face high above the ground. This scene would be referenced directly when Hugo later does the same to avoid the Station Inspector. Scorsese isn’t just quoting those movies in his visuals for for the sake of it, he’s pointing out how brilliant those filmmakers work. It’s no surprise that Scorsese was willing to make this movie in 3D; he probably saw it as the same sort of new innovation that was common place in early 20th century film.

More important than the history and source material, though, is that HUGO is an entertaining and interesting movie about a historical figure who doesn’t get enough credit. This movie is a keeper.




FINAL SCORE: 7.75 out of 10

~ by johnlink00 on December 28, 2014.

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