To us, the outside observer, the world of Hugo Cabret appears a magical one–a train station in Paris of the 1930’s filled with interesting people and interesting stories.
As we follow our young guide through the literal clock-work of his life we see vignettes as he passes them by: a would be encounter prevented by a dog, a station inspector in love with the girl from the flower shop, and many more…
Hugo sees, notices, and moves on, because while his world may look magical for him it is a timetable, a machine, sometimes a maze (used to his advantage), and quite literally a clock.
An orphan left by his drunkard uncle to run the station’s clocks , Hugo (Asa Butterfield) the title character of Martin Scorsese’s aptly named “Hugo,” is a mechanically minded, incredibly clever child who must keep the clocks running, or be discovered.
In the midst of his maintenance of illusions and timepieces is Hugo’s automaton, a project he and his father (the flashback-confined Jude Law) started and Hugo is determined to complete. He just needs the key.
As luck, some misadventures, and a fantastically, magical plot would have it Hugo meets Isabelle (Chloë Grace Moretz), an imaginative bookworm whose grandfather (Ben Kingsley) runs a shop in the station. Isabelle has the key.
The revival of the automaton leads to much more than any of them (or us) could possibly imagine, as Hugo and Isabelle find themselves searching into the past of her grandfather, who just happens to be Georges Méliès, a pioneer of film and special effects.
It’s in this moment we see what this movie was all along, a film about film Which brings me to quite possibly the greatest achievement of this film–appropriately used 3D.
It’s refreshingly not used as a gimmick. It’s a storytelling device and it gives us perspective within the great history of film. Contrasted with the beautifully restored 2D images of classic silent cinema, the 3D takes on new meaning and worth.
Sitting proudly at the top of the Oscar nominations list (11 in total) this film is more than worthy. It’s magical, beautiful, and neatly packaged within the fantastic world of the equally fantastic Hugo Cabret, complete with a marvelous ensemble, supporting cast (Sacha Baron Cohen, Emily Mortimer, Richard Griffiths, Christopher Lee, Frances de la Tour), and a family friendly story.
It is a testament to what the medium of film can do, what it has done, and the childlike wonder each of us brings to it.
Check out more of 2WC’s film reviews: The Crusade on Cinema
…and take a look at Zer’s review of Hugo…