Tuesday, February 28, 2012


Ben Kingsley, Asa Butterfield, Chloe Grace Moretz
Sacha Baron Cohen, Emily Mortimer, Jude Law

"Everything has a purpose like machines, they do what they are meant to do. For people it is the same, if you lose your purpose it is like you are broken."
So goes an appropriate line in this enchanting film by Martin Scorsese. A director whose forte are mob related movies filled with foul dialogue, blasts of gun fires and loads of violence. But I believe the purpose of this highly amusing movie is to entertain and enchant us with stunning visuals, a complex yet heartfelt plot with an endearing cast of characters. It certainly succeeded in its aim. And it just happens to be directed by Scorsese whose passion for the art of film making is clearly evident in "Hugo".

Set in the 1930s in Paris, most of the film unfolds in a very busy train station. After he was abandoned by his uncle, the station’s official timekeeper, orphan Hugo Cabret (Asa Butterfield) lives alone in a dark, secret quarters within the walls of the station. There, amid clocks, gears and pulleys, he putters, sleeps and dreams mostly of fixing a delicate automaton that his deceased father, a clockmaker (Jude Law) brought home, one day.

The automaton is all that remains of a happy past. The automaton, a robotic device shaped in the image of a little boy is missing one vital part - a heart shaped key. Hugo is obsessed with finding the key and his search brings him in contact with Monsieur George Melies (Ben Kingsley) a toy seller in the station with a mystical and mysterious past.

Authentic set design reminiscent of the era transport us the viewers to a vivid universe with visuals that is entirely like a postcard coming to life on the big screen. The train station filled with shops, stalls and vendors of all sorts always bustling with the regular flow of commuters is quite a marvel to behold.

The cast displays their best performances. The young actors are quite natural in their responses, no awkward moments. Asa Butterfield with his page boy cut and his wide eyes remind me of Elijah Wood in his younger days. Ben Kingsley is always good. His portrayal of George Melies is quite effectual, conveying the many emotions of a man escaping from his painful life of regrets.

The supporting cast (Emily Mortimer, Jude Law) also add much flair and give the movie its richness. Sacha Baron Cohen exhibits good comedic timing as the Inspector obsessed with tracking down orphans. The guy can truly act well. He certainly doesn't need to resort to his usual shock and awe as a substitute for humor ("Borat", "Bruno") antics.

Although the film is quite long, there are no dull moments as you are constantly overwhelmed with magical surrealism. Especially when it recalls the early days of film making. The clips and footage of old black and white films was quite a lovely touch. The cinematic trails of the makeshift sets, celebrated the joy of movie making and its rightful place as a true art form. It also championed the importance of film preservation, an advocacy that Scorsese is quite passionate about.

"Hugo" won 5 Oscars in the Best Art Direction, Cinematography, Sound Editing, Sound Mixing, and Visual Effects category. It deserved all of these awards, because every single detail of this delightful movie works perfectly, just like clockwork!

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