Hugo (2011)

  • Director – Martin Scorsese
  • Writer – John Logan, Brian Selznik
  • Starring – Asa Butterfield, Ben Kingsley, Chloe Grace Moretz and Sacha Baron Cohen
  • Year – 2011
  • Running Time – 128 mins


It has taken me a long time to get round to watching Hugo, but I am so glad that I did. This is a wonderful and simply glorious ode to early cinema told through the eyes of Hugo (Asa Butterfield), an orphan who after the death of his clockmaker father (Jude Law) ends up living in the walls of a Parisian train station charged with winding the station’s numerous clocks.

Hugo’s only link back to his late father is through a majestic mechanical automaton, a sort of tin man which his father had been restoring in his spare time. As appears to be the way with all tin men this one is also missing a heart, but this time it is a heart shaped key which Hugo is convinced if he can find will unlock the secrets inside.  This leads young Hugo on a dangerous but adventurous search which often lands him in the clutches of either the local shopkeeper (Ben Kingsley) or the Station Inspector (Sacha Baron Cohen).  Help is at hand though from the shopkeeper’s god daughter Isabelle (Chloe Grace Moretz) and as the two join forces they soon discover they have more in common than they thought.

In Hugo, Scorsese has produced a truly magical tale which sucks the viewer into the screen via the innovative use of 3D so immersing us within the dynamics of Parisian life and the wonders that take place within the walls of the station.  Butterfield is perfectly cast as young Hugo, a curious young boy determined to survive in a hard and cold world which constantly seems to deal him a bad hand; you simply can’t help but love him.  Moretz after a slightly shaky start soon finds her feet (and her accent), Kingsley is excellent, especially as the story develops and there is strength in depth from a top notch supporting cast including Emily Mortimer, Ray Winstone and Christopher Lee to name but a few.

Hugo’s strength however is in its story, which effortlessly unfolds in front of you with real grace and elegance.  Scorsese’s love for the history of his craft and his desire to share this tale of early cinema is evident in every frame.  Whilst it may not be the most historically accurate portrayal of cinematic history it has a true and good heart which beautifully captures the essence of what is cinema.

Some people have criticised Scorsese for creating a children’s movie that is inaccessible for most children. I strongly disagree on this point.  To me Hugo is a classic children’s movie which works across all age spectrums, much in a similar vain to Spielberg’s ET. In a world of Woody, Buzz, Jessie and meatballs that fall from the sky (which don’t get me wrong are all fabulous in their own right), it is refreshing to see a children’s movie of old.  It feels like a magical Christmas movie to me, perfectly accessible and enjoyed by all.

Hugo is fully deserving of the many accolades that it picked up during the awards season. It is a wonderful and engaging film which I will show my children when they are a little older and I am certain they will fall in love with cinema in the same way their father need did so many years ago.

★★★★★

Review by Will Malone

If you liked Hugo, then try Only Lovers Left Alive.