The opening scene itself is a masterpiece with the buzzing city of Paris being compared to the interior of a mechanic clock. The downward descent to the city gains speed as it follows a train which barrels into a station. This later makes us recall the scene in which the first cinema slide was captured and projected. This clips showed a train zooming into the station and nearly makes the audience flee because they think that they are just about to be run over by a train.
The action does not stop there as the camera moves along briskly and wordlessly, laying the foundation stones to half a dozen relationships. It finally stops at its destination, a small boy peering out from one of the station’s massive clocks – a fact that later suggests that he had turned the station to his own personal theatre by observing the action, romance and comedy unfolding live and in reality.
It takes only a few minutes for the audience to access the character of Hugo Cabret, an orphan, tinkerer, thief and the person who keeps the station’s clocks working. However we soon realize that Hugo’s character has deeper layers than that which meets the eye.
His fascinated graze is zeroed on Georges, a toymaker and magician. Thinking that Georges had dozed off on his chair Hugo makes his way to the store to grab a toy mouse which had been lying on his table. At this moment the director, cameraman and editor had cleverly inserted a touching moment: Hugo’s reflection caught in Georges’ eye and his unspoken understanding on what had been taking place.
It is such magical moments like these, which need no outspoken words or actions, that keep the ‘Hugo’ magic flowing and enchanting the audience.
The story is simple yet there are so many silent elements hidden within its folds that speak a thousand words and trigger your emotions. Therefore this moment is enough for us to realize that the Hugo- Georges relationship has a long way to go and it does, helped by a third party, Georges’ goddaughter, Isabelle. The Isabelle – Hugo friendship develops when she agrees to help him locate a notebook taken off him by her godfather. On realizing that she had never seen a film, Hugo sneaks Isabelle and himself to the nearest movie theatre. Significantly they watch Harold Lloyd’s Safety Last where the clock gag is later imitated by Hugo when he hides from the orphan-nabbing railway inspector. While uncovering a secret hidden within the writing skills of a strange robot, Hugo and Isabelle stumble upon Georges’ famous hidden past, a glorious era he had kept hidden and forgotten from the public eye.
The movie brings the world of reality and fantasy together by tweaking the wonders of the lens. One minute Scorsese seems to be showing us the harsh reality of the life at the station while the next minute we are taken on a ride across the imagination in the form of the past or in one of Hugo’s dreams.
The comic element springs up in the lest expected moment, sometimes in the form of two elderly people whose only obstacle in being together is a lap dog owned by the lady or the minor romance brewing between the railway inspector and the flower girl at the station. Scorsese has also captured the essence of the digital Paris beautifully, proving that 3D is not there to increase the spectacle but to give it height, depth, humour and intensity.
The cast is a joy to watch because their performances are excellent right down to the smallest roles. The two child actors, Asa Butterfield and Chloë Grace Moretz, are the real stars of the movie.
Their emotions and actions are brilliantly captured. Ben Kingsley delivers a deeply moving performance.
Sacha Baron Cohen proves that serious acting too can generate laughter.
Though Hugo rotates around the adventure of two children, it is mature enough to keep the adult audience engaged. It embodies a magic which is rare in modern movies mostly because it comes from the director’s heart. Its virtues lie in many angles and is one of those movies which will remain evergreen in the history of Hollywood cinema.