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Hugo (2011)

One of the Most Legendary Directors of Our Time Takes You on an Extraordinary Adventure

Rating: 7/10

Running Time: 126 minutes

US Certificate: PG UK Certificate: U

Hugo Cabret (Butterfield) is left an orphan when his watchmaker father (Law) is killed in a fire and he is made to go live with his Uncle Claude (Winstone) at a Parisian train station. Here, he must tend to the station’s clocks but instead gets into trouble with the anal Station Inspector (Baron Cohen) and then Georges Méliès (Kingsley) who owns a toy shop. Hugo was left an automaton by his father and he uses his friendship with a young girl (Moretz) to fix the machine that will help him uncover more about his life and Méliès’ than he was counting on.

Hugo is visually stunning from first to last as we get sweeping views of post-World War One Paris and all the commotion of a busy train station, made even better by the masterful use of 3D. Yet somehow the endless journeys through the inner workings of machines seem a little clichéd as nowadays they are the stock method of any Director who wants to show off his cinematographic abilities. The whole slowburning opening section indeed seems tired as we are introduced to an orphan boy who lives in an unusual place and has an impressive talent and then treated to dialogue from characters who seem to know what’s coming next. But then it skilfully lurches in different unknown directions into gripping adventure territory and even gets a bit mournful at times, all with a Dickensian feel. This movie is aimed towards cinephiles as much as kids as Scorcese shares his passion for early cinema through both mini lectures and the happenings on screen.

From Sasha Baron Cohen as the Station Inspector with a love for a rules but played with a twinge of humanity and Ben Kingsley’s softly spoken yet authoritative toy shop owner cum magician and film maker, to more assured performances from young Butterfield and Moretz, the cast acquit themselves perfectly. The only niggle being that as this is set outside of America all the characters inevitably have an English accent to label them as foreign. I was quite looking forward to hearing Ray Winstone’s French accent.

It's Got: Wonderful cinematography, great performances all round, something for children and cinephiles

It Needs: Patience to get through the slow-burning opening section, a few overused camera tricks


Hugo looks exquisite and the plot is as mature and engaging as you’d expect from a Scorcese film but sometimes the cinematography is a little clichéd in its use. Good for kids, great for adults who love film.