Martin Scorsese has been making some great films these last few years, and Hugo is no exception. The story of a young orphan who lives among the clock towers of a train station in 1920's (or 30's) Paris, hooks up with a cute orphan girl, a cantankerous old man, an automaton that needs repairs and a station guard who wants to send him to an orphanage might be too scattered for any other director, but Scorsese manages to have all that plus include an ode to his own love of films and make the film in 3D. And it's great.
I recently wrote about how I want to feel something when I watch a movie, and I've gotta say, that this film moved me in spades. From the shots of us following young Hugo around the catacombs of the train station to the heights of the clock towers, the camera manages to, because of the 3D, make us feel that we're both there, and create a sense of fantasy. I've got to imagine that the movie looks just as magical in 2D, but the immersive nature of 3D makes this journey all the more enjoyable.
The first half of the film sets up the characters and begins the mystery of the automaton. Even the supporting cast has full stories that I found compelling. Maybe because I'm such a softy, but the different love stories that the film follows are all wonderful. From the couples that have to overcome minor difficulties, to those that have a love that lasts forever, the film gives them equal weight, without being overstated.
But the real love that's on display here, is a love of both books and films. Hugo bonded with his father over movies, and Isabelle (with another great performance by Chloe Grace Moretz) has found that books are her gateway into adventure. When the two of them combine, a slice of magic happens. Hugo is able to show her the magic of films, and without books, the central mystery of the film might never have been solved.
Besides the two children (who are completely convincing), the movie also boasts of one of Ben Kingsley's finest performances as Papa Georges. From his steely-eyed glare, to the thawing of his heart to the sadness of his past, he inhabits the character perfectly. Sacha Baron Cohen as the station inspector is a suitable adversary for Hugo, and when you find out his story, you completely understand why he is the way he is. And Christopher Lee as a bookstore owner? That's a win all day long.
But, really, the main reason the film works as well as it does is the whole idea that history is important. The characters get an education on the early days of cinema, and for many of the moviegoers, it's their education as well. And it's fascinating. There are wonderful recreations of the actual filming of these early films. The joy these characters have for this time is infectious. And none of this is heavy-handed, because the reactions the characters echo the reactions we're experiencing.
It really is an amazing film, and unlike some of the other reviews I've read, I actually like the first half of the film more than the second half. But as a whole it's still one of my favorites of the year. And the music is a standout as well. There really is no reason not to see this film if you like movies. It might love them even more than you.