“One of the most legendary directors of our time takes you on an extraordinary adventure.” was one of the tagline used to advertise this amazing film, and it does not break this promise. This is a completely different kind of movie for director Martin Scorsese, but when it came to giving us a great story filled with fantastic imagery, conflict, and even a mystery, he nailed it, and very well.
This is a story about Hugo Cabret (Asa Butterfield), a boy living in a train station in Paris during the art deco days of the early 1930s. This is no ordinary train station, as it is filled with all kinds of shops that welcome travelers from all over the Continent. There is a bakery, a cafe, a flower shop, a live band, and much more. Hugo is being looked after by his drunken uncle, but it is he whom keeps the clocks at the station well-oiled and running. He learned the skills on how to work with gears and spring from his father, a clockmaker. This is the family business.
In the days before Hugo’s arrival into the station, he and his father (Jude Law), loved their job. They excelled at their craft, and did some tinkering on other things like toys and such. One day, his father was sent to do some work at a museum, but there was an accident, and this left Hugo as an orphan and an odd inheritance, a steel automaton from the museum at which is father was working. His next kin, Uncle Claude (Ray Winstone), has taken charge of Hugo, and they live in a maintenance shop inside the train station.
The station has a security officer (Sacha Baron Cohen) that has problems with unattended children running loose about the station, as too many street urchins has tried to steal from tourists and commuters in the past. He does not know that Hugo has taken over his uncle’s job of maintaining the clocks. Hugo will steal a croissant or pastry from the cafe when he can to get by, but it is the small toy shop that interests him the most. He has taken it upon himself to repair the automaton his father left behind, and with parts from this shop, and his father’s note, he thinks he can make it work.
One day, the shop’s owner, Georges Méliès (Ben Kingsley) catches him trying to take a toy mouse, and he catches him. He takes the notebook, and is amazed at the detailed drawings and notes he finds. Apparently, the kid is a mechanical genius, but Hugo says the notes are not his, but that he desperately needs the book. Méliès offers him a job, and there he befriends Méliès’ god-daughter, Isabelle (Chloë Grace Moretz). Isabelle loves books, and is intrigued by Hugo’s desperation to fix this item. She agrees to help him, because she wants an adventure, and she gets the best one ever, and never has to leave her own backyard to find it. Once they unlock the secret of the automaton, literally, with a key that she has been wearing around her neck on a ribbon, the chase leads them to her own family, and to the film institute where they meet with a film history professor, Rene Tabard (Michael Stuhlbarg), and this takes them even further into Isabelle’s family history.
This movie is visually stunning, the artwork and technology true to the time, both from the 1930s and the 1890s depicting the works of Georges Méliès and his wife, Jeanne d’Alcy (Helen McCrory), when film was a pioneering media, and he was one of the first to take it on in such a dramatic manner. This movie was up for an Academy Award for Best Picture in 2012, and is so deserving of the nomination, even if it did not win. It is good to see family films getting more recognition, and this is one that should not be missed.
I give this film a Musing review of