Posted by: greercn | December 5, 2011


Martin Marcantonio Luciano Scorsese has a dark side. He now brings the energy that works in “Taxi Driver” and “The Departed” to a family audience, in magical 3D. Whether you will like “Hugo” or not depends on how much you enjoy Scorsese’s work, film trickery, early movies and a Roald Dahl-type story.

The children in the audience at the Stratford Picturehouse all enjoyed it very much. With Ben Kingsley stealing the film from excellent child actors Asa Butterfield (The Boy In The Striped Pyjamas) and Chloe Grace Moretz (KickAss), there is quite a lot here for adult audiences too.

A young boy is orphaned and lives secretly in a train station in 1930s Paris, repairing the clocks. Hugo works to repair an automaton (a large mechanical toy), which is a sentimental reminder of time he spent with his father.

He steals food and avoids getting sent to an orphanage by Sacha Baron Cohen, who plays a station inspector as a comical policeman – a sort of Borat – with a big dog.

But it’s Ben Kingsley’s film. His moods dominate the story and the action moves faster when he is on screen.

In a cast that includes Jude Law, Helen McCrory, Ray Winstone and lots of familiar faces, it’s worth noting that Michael Stuhlbarg’s performance is extraordinary.

If you adore the early history of film, this is a must see. The scenes from the earliest movies and the homage to them, in the form of some terrific train effects just grab your attention.

The 3D is very special, from effects of papers scattering to ashes blowing past. “Hugo” is an unusual and epic 3D achievement.

Little things worry me. The clothing is not authentically 1930s. What will happen to the clocks after the film ends? The Parisian settings can cloy and annoy and the characters ignore their class differences, in a very modern way.

There is something a little “Allo Allo” about the use of French names in “Hugo”.

But, essentially, it’s a fun fantasy for kids that loves to educate about movies. At 126 minutes, it’s long and requires a good attention span as sections of it move quite slowly.

I liked it, but didn’t love it. I will buy the DVD and watch the reconstructions of historical film scenes again and again. Real children and those in touch with their inner children will love the whole thing.



  1. The movie itself runs a bit long at 127 minutes, but Hugo is worth every minute for the visual feast it provides, and features Scorsese in probably his most delightful and elegant mood ever, especially with all of the beautiful 3-D. Good review.

    • Thanks for the comment! Scenes stay in my head so it may be a movie I like more with time and repeated viewings. I should have said that the music is subtle and lovely. The train station sets are beautiful and the 3D is original and a real achievement.

  2. Love your blog!

  3. I love Hugo much more than you, it seems. One of the top five of the year for me!

    • I like it a lot more as time goes by so I may revisit this review. Images stay in my head, in a positive way.

    • I feel like I am a dissenting voice in the world of top 10s. Help, Tom Roberts! Is this okay?

  4. I love the possible mainstream-filmmaking style that a film like The Artist may open up. Anyone with a basic knowledge of film history will know that mainstream cinema has become a slave to ‘reality’ (meaning its adaption to colour and talkies) and narrativity when giving an audience a particular experience.

    Art House films that play with the potential greatness that the ‘silence’ of cinema can offer include Eisenstein (Potemkin particularly) Godfrey Reggio (Koyaanisqatsi: a film made up of images and music) and Ron Frickie (Baraka: another film made up of beautiful images and music)) and more famously Kubrick (2001: A Space Odyssey: a film that contains little dialogue and, again, consists primarily of images and music)

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