The first trailers of “Hugo” promised what looked to be a beautiful film for children. After watching the Blu-ray of “Hugo” I can honestly attest that it is not only beautiful, but a marvelous cinematic wonder that captures the heart of adults, as much as children. The thing about “Hugo” is that it’s not really a children’s film, at least young children; it’s a well-told story. “Hugo” is a story full of interesting characters, a little mystery and a lot of heart. Based on Brian Selznick’s book, “The Invention of Hugo Cabret,” “Hugo” is worth watching.
Hugo (Asa Butterfield) is not an ordinary boy. He is a clock keeper who lives and works in the train station where he spends his days tending to the time, watching the wonderful mixture of regulars, and stealing food as well as parts from the train station’s toyshop so that he can finish a project he started with his dad (Jude Law) before he died. The project is a automaton shaped like a man with parts much like a clock, and a spot for a heart shaped key that Hugo can’t seem to find. It’s not just any mechanical man, it was a magician’s and after losing his dad, Hugo is certain that if he can get the machine to work, then he’ll uncover a secret message from his dad.
In the train station, Hugo is always on guard since the station inspector (Sacha Baron Cohen) seems to delight in finding orphaned children and sending them away. But the inspector, much like all of the characters Hugo encounters and observes, has layers. As the film progress we learn more about the reason why he is who he is, and we enjoy his attempts to impress the flower seller, Lisette (Emily Mortimer). Still, it is the toy shopkeeper Georges Méliès (Ben Kingsley) who is the most interesting and who has layers that help piece together not only Hugo’s story, but the film’s.
Hugo embarks on a journey of discovery along with the toymaker’s goddaughter, Isabelle (Chloë Grace Moretz) after uncovering a secret message in the automaton. Together they begin to piece together the mystery of the mechanical man and its relation to her godfather. Their initial attempts at discovering just where it came from and why her godparents Georges and Mama Jeanne (Helen McCrory) seem to play a part is met with apprehension, as well as a great deal of sorrow. The end result is truly a beautiful ode to cinema and filmmakers, and the human spirit.
Throughout “Hugo,” there is a focus on cinema that really makes this film so inspired, so wonderfully unique. And what better director than Martin Scorsese to capture the history of cinema’s beginnings? Part fiction, part fact, “Hugo” also explores the history and real life of Georges Méliès. Scorsese does a fantastic job weaving the fact and fiction together, often using elements from early cinema and tying them into the storyline. This film has layers, that’s all I can say really. There are unexpected characters, there are moments of quiet grief and subtle triumph, there are characters so very human that you can’t help but enjoy them all for different reasons.
Ben Kingsley is especially good as Georges Méliès, delivering a performance different than his previous works, a reserved and heartbreaking performance that must be seen to be truly, fully appreciated. Asa Butterfield is so well suited for the title role, that you lose yourself in the film, believing he is Hugo, and rooting for his every endeavor to succeed. Helen McCrory is impeccable and Chloe Grace Moretz is clearly a talent full of a sense of wonder necessary for the role.
“Hugo” isn’t what I expected. The film does move at a slower, quieter pace in parts which may not appeal to younger children, but it’s certainly worth introducing to children in their late single digits. With top-notch acting and Martin Scorsese’s attention to detail and obvious appreciation for movie magic, “Hugo” is worth watching no matter your age. The cinematography is some of the most rich and breathtaking that I’ve seen in some time, creating an additional layer that enhances the story and brings it further to life. If you love movies, watch this film. If you long for a sense of wonder and great storytelling, watch this film. If you want to see a truly great film, then please watch “Hugo.”
VIDEO: The film is presented on Blu-Ray in 1.85:1 (1080p/AVC) and the results are dazzling. Image quality is top-notch throughout the show, with crisp, clean fine details apparent throughout the running time. Aside from a few moments of very slight edge enhancement, the presentation appeared smootha and pristine. Colors looked warm, rich and well-saturated throughout.
SOUND: The film is presented in DTS-HD 5.1. The film's sound design is delightful - while not consistently aggressive, there is a very nice degree of small environmental detail in the rear speakers. Some more intense sequences - such as a dream sequence - provide more aggressive use of the surrounds. Audio quality is first-rate, with well-recorded effects, crisp dialogue and warm, rich music.
“Shoot The Moon: The Making of Hugo” - The making of feature covers bringing the novel to the big screen, casting, production, the use of 3D and more. Interviews with the cast and crew help round out this feature, making it an enjoyable look at bringing the film to life.
“The Cinemagician, Georges Méliès” - A look at the life and career of Georges Méliès, including interviews with film experts, as well as Méliès’ great-great granddaughter.
“The Mechanical Man at the Heart of Hugo” - This feature is an interesting look at the automaton featured in “Hugo” as well as their history.
“Big Effects, Small Scale” - This feature focuses specifically on the effects used to get the derailed train scene just right.
“Sacha Baron Cohen: Role of a Lifetime” - A brief mock-interview with Sacha Baron Cohen.
Final Thoughts: "Hugo" does move at a slower, quieter pace in parts which may not appeal to younger children, but it’s certainly worth introducing to children in their late single digits. With top-notch acting, breathtaking cinematography, and Martin Scorsese’s attention to detail and obvious appreciation for movie magic, “Hugo” is worth watching no matter your age. The Blu-Ray presentation offers terrific video and audio, as well as a decent collection of supplements. Recommended.
The Film B+