Hugo Review – A Gorgeous Tribute

By Naveen

If I am allowed to say one thing and one thing only about Hugo then it would be that the father of movie special effects was decorated and celebrated fittingly in 3D visual extravaganza.

Hugo is the movie adaptation of the novel “The Invention of Hugo Cabret” by Brian Selznick.

It is a Fantasy – Mystery – Drama directed by the Academy Award winning Martin Scorsese, who has given several riveting dramas such as “Taxi Driver”, “The Gangs of New York” and “The Departed” to name a few.

Hugo is co-produced by GK Films, Martin Scorsese and Johnny Depp.


Hugo is the story of a young orphan Hugo Cabret who hides and lives within the walls of the main Train Station in Paris.

Hugo is also the story of Georges Méliès, an illusionist who went on to become a film maker known for his path breaking work on special effects during the infancy of Cinema.

Hugo is also a narrative about the origins of Cinema Special Effects, which is now taken for granted.

The story is set after of World War I, probably in the late 1920’s.

Hugo’s father makes and fixes clocks. He comes across an automaton (Robot) in a broken condition begins to fix it for Hugo.

Soon he dies in a freak fire accident leaving behind Hugo as an orphan with Uncle Claude, who is a drunkard.

Uncle Claude takes Hugo to the Paris Train Station where he lives and enslaves him to maintain all the clocks in the station. Uncle Claude goes away leaving Hugo alone.

Hugo’s only purpose from that point is to use his dad’s notebook to fix the Robot while living a secluded and secret life within the dark dungeons and walls of the station.

Hugo steals mechanical toys (for its parts) from a Toy Shop run by George in the station and hides from the Station Master/Inspector, a cynical rude man who has lost a leg in the War.

One day George catches Hugo in the act and takes Hugo’s notebook. George and his wife Jeanne are “Godparents” of the adventure crazy Isabelle who Hugo befriends in his pursuit of the notebook.

Mysteriously Isabelle has the missing Key needed to make Hugo’s Robot work and gradually they discover together that the cantankerous Toy Shop owner “Papa” George is actually the visionary film maker Georges Méliès.

George does not wish to be reminded about the past which he’s been trying hard to forget.

The rest of the movie is about how Hugo and Isabelle are able put a smile on the old man’s face and bring back some of the glory that he so richly deserved.

Who is Georges Méliès? Read

Cast & Performance

Hugo stars-
Asa Butterfield as Hugo Cabret
Sir Ben Kingsley of Gandhi fame as Georges Méliès
Chloe Moretz as Isabelle
Sacha Baron Cohen as the station master
Jude Law as Hugo’s father
Christopher Lee as a Librarian
and others.

Asa Butterfield does a fine job as Hugo. He has good screen presence and captivating eyes.

Ben Kingsley as Georges proves why he is rightly titled “Sir”. Kingsley slides into the role with remarkable dexterity.

Inept Bollywood and Kollywood jokers who routinely throw the words “Legend”, “Masterpiece” “Great” etc. with sickening frequency at anyone older than 50 should watch 10 minutes of Kingsley and they would hang their head in shame. Oh! I forgot! Shameless thieves don’t die of shame and one needs a head in order to hang it.

All the other actors were very good although one doesn’t understand why Jude Law or Christopher Lee took up such insignificant roles. Did they just want to be part of a Scorsese project?

Some Brilliant Moments

Diving deeper, some of the finer aspects of the film were the brilliant portrayal of the simple romance between the villainous Station Master (I don’t think he had a name in the movie) and the florist at the station. The ironical tenderness and fear of a man who is otherwise ruthless and angry, is brilliantly portrayed in a simple scene.

There is a another comical romance between a old man and woman which is unfailingly thwarted by the lady’s pet dog. A nice deviation from the otherwise serious proceedings.

The simplistic explanation of Purpose of Life by Hugo to Isabella is worth remembering. Machines only have parts that are necessary and each part has a specific purpose. If the world was one big machine and we are the parts of that machine then it is not possible for us to not have a purpose. Deep stuff!!

The movie is a visual treat.

Sweeping views of Paris from the early 20th century are lovingly captured.

3D brings to life all the imagery.

The moving mechanical parts, huge clocks, the hustle and bustle of the train station, the narrow corridors and alleys within walls of the station are so life-like in 3D, a technology that’s often abused in ridiculous films like Immortals and The Clash of Titans for the sole purpose of stealing an extra few bucks from moviegoers.

The montage of Georges Méliès’s original movies and glimpses of how they were made is deftly weaved into the narration. It will be an orgasmic experience for connoisseurs of cinema.

On the downside…

While Hugo was a fine movie watching experience there are a few ho hum things. For instance:

1. The movie is a little too long at more than 2 hours which makes it feel slow.

2. While the views of Paris were shot brilliantly, I am not sure if Paris was so brightly lit and filled with speeding automobiles in the 1920s as the imagery seems to suggest.

3. For a man who is so hurt about his past that he avoids cinema completely, the final change of heart seems too abrupt and easy. It did not have the adequate emotional quotient needed to leave a lasting impact.

4. Commercial compromise: The story is set in Paris and Georges Méliès was French. But everyone speaks in English including the secondary characters. Maybe the movie should have been made in French and subtitled in English but it is not directed by Tarantino 😉


Overall, Hugo is a fine film, a visual treat with some very good performances.

It will surely earn a few nominations in the major categories.

I strongly recommend Hugo for cinema aficionados and anyone who patronizes “Good” Cinema. If you are looking for entertainment of the Velayudham kind then you will be strongly disappointed.

Hugo enlightens us about Georges Méliès, one of the most original minds who made celluloid dreams come true and laid the foundation of Cinema Special Effects which is now commonly unleashed in every frame by the likes of Spielberg, James, Cameron, Peter Jackson and, now, Scorsese.

Enjoy the tribute!

3 Responses to "Hugo Review – A Gorgeous Tribute"

  1. vjcool   November 25, 2011 at 12:18 am

    Nice review.

    Would watch for Georges Méliès.

    Love his movies.

    BTW I recommend the Pygmalion (1938) with screenplay dialogue by George Bernard Shaw.

    • vjcool   November 28, 2011 at 12:50 am

      regarding Pygmalion..well …have you seen ‘My Fair Lady’, watched it on TV when there was only DD, and they showed it on their late night slot.. that was also based on the same play by Bernard Shaw, but was a lighthearted musical than the hard hitting Play and its 1938 adaptation to the big screen.. the only thing that doesn’t fit in the film is the last one minute which was changed to give a happy ending. Started reading the play and finished a scene, and Pygmalion has maintained the plays visuals and dialogues. Responds:

      Read the play but haven’t seen the film.

  2. Hari Jr   January 30, 2012 at 11:55 pm

    Do you remember seeing the classic Ben Kingsley movie – ‘Gandhi’ which was released in 1982 directed by the great Richard Attenborough ?? :-):-) Responds:

    Yes, watched it first at a drive-in and maybe later on TV as well.

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