“Hugo” is a love letter to the movies, Martin Scorsese’s ode to all that flickers on the silver screen.
Set in the 1920s, “Hugo” tells of young Hugo Cabret (Asa Butterfield), a boy that lives in a train station. How he gets there is told through a series of flashbacks.
Hugo’s father (Jude Law) works in a museum, using gears and springs to bring discarded things back to life.
One day, the father finds an automaton, and he explains to Hugo that this mechanical man must have been made by a magician. But there is a problem: The automaton does not work.
The two set out to get the machine working again, but tragedy strikes. Hugo winds up going to live with his Uncle Claude (Ray Winstone), who works in the train station winding the clocks.
Hugo keeps working on the automaton, but he needs gears and springs. To procure them, he steals from the toy booth in the station.
The booth is owned by an older man named George (Ben Kingsley), who one day catches Hugo and takes the notebook Hugo’s father used to repair the automaton as punishment. Hugo is heartbroken.
Meanwhile, Hugo must continue dodging the Station Inspector (Sacha Baron Cohen), who loves to capture wayward orphans and pack them away to the orphanage.
In one of his attempts to evade the inspector, Hugo runs into Isabelle (Chloe Grace Moretz), George’s godchild.
She eventually partners with Hugo to bring the mechanical man back to life and serves as a sort of muse for the automaton’s revival.
The movie moves through the paces of resurrecting the automaton, which ultimately provides a mystery. It makes for a thrilling story about the movies: how they evolved in that time period and how they survived into ours.
I often tell people not to go see movies but to go see directors. There is a select group of directors I feel should be seen, and Martin Scorsese is one of them.
Most of his movies deal with violence in the narrative, but “Hugo” has none of this.
It is filled with beauty and grace, using 3-D in a remarkable and truly dimensional way lacking in most of the current 3-D formatted movies.
In an interview, Steven Spielberg speaks about how we, the audience, know which of the 3-D movies are worth our while and dollars. He says some movies are meant to be 3-D, and some are not. “Hugo” is.
And not only that, but it packs a wonderful message.
As Hugo speaks about his fascination with machines and especially the automaton, he says: “I’d imagine the whole world was one big machine. Machines never come with any extra parts, you know. They always come with the exact amount they need. So I figured if the entire world was one big machine, I couldn’t be an extra part. I had to be here for some reason.”
God doesn’t make any junk, as they say. We are all part of the larger whole, part of the greater work of the Almighty, the maker of all. It’s a beautiful thought from a beautiful movie.
MPAA Rating: PG for mild thematic material, some action/peril and smoking.
Director: Martin Scorsese
Writer: John Logan (based on the novel by Brian Selznick)
Cast: Asa Butterfield: Hugo Cabret; Chloe Grace Moretz: Isabelle; Ben Kingsley: George Melies; Sacha Baron Cohen: Station Inspector; Ray Winstone: Uncle Claude.
The movie’s website is here.
Michael Parnell is pastor of Temple Baptist Church in Raleigh, North Carolina. He is married and has two boys. His love is for movies, and he can be found in a theater most Fridays.