Hugo (2011)

by Puru


May 11, 2012

Last night, I thought of treating myself with a good movie and went to watch Hugo which released in India after a long delay. What a treat it was!

Hugo (2011) 1

Hugo Poster

Based on the novel ‘The invention of Hugo Cabret’ by Brian Selznick, Hugo is the story of 12-year-old Hugo Cabret who after the death of his father, lives in the railway station in Paris where his alcoholic watchmaker uncle has abandoned him. So Hugo lives within the walls of the Railway Station and keep maintaining the clocks of the places as his uncle used to do. His only companion is a broken mechanical man Automaton on which his father was working before he died. Hugo believes that the Automaton will bring a message for him from his father and so he is trying to repair it at any cost.  In this quest, Hugo runs against Papa Georges from whose toy shop he has been stealing spare parts. George confiscates Hugo’s notebook with the drawings of the Automaton and says he will return it only when Hugo repays him by working in his shop.

So Hugo starts working in the toy shop and keeps fixing the Automaton. Finally there is just one last piece which is missing from the machine, a heart-shaped key. This key comes from Isabelle, the god-daughter of George and an adventure seeker who has befriended Hugo. When the Automaton at last starts working, it draws a sketch from a movie, of moon being hit in the eye by a rocket, and with the signature of George Melies. Isabelle tells that this George Melies is no one but Papa Georges himself. Now the questions become more complicated. Who exactly is Papa Georges? Why does the Automaton write his name? Why was Hugo’s father working so hard to fix Automaton before he died? This film tracks Hugo’s quests to find the answers for this question.

There are times when while watching a film, you get a feeling that you are watching the work of a master storyteller. Hugo is one such tale told with extreme sensitivity. There are many tender moments in the film, people are generally good and even the villains have very little villainy in them. The characterization has been done very carefully and even the people on the fringes of the script like the bookshop owner, the Police Inspector and the woman with the dog and her secret paramour hold on to their own. Ben Kingsley as the fragile Papa Georges lives up to his reputation and is a towering figure of the film. The protagonist, young Hugo is amazing in his performance and although he speaks very little, his eyes tell a lot.

Though the protagonist of Hugo is a child, this film may command the same appeal to children and adults alike. The film is a visual delight straight from the opening scene. Paris has never looked lovelier and the Eiffel Tower looks majestic towering above the city. The railway station comes alive suddenly and looks straight out of a fantasy; the steam engines bellowing thick smoke look lovely and have a certain magical quality. At times you may even feel that you will see a Hogwarts Express chug chugging in.  What can we say about the massive clocks of the station! Anyone with the remotest interest in mechanics will fall instantly in love with the various cranks, gears and pendulums constantly at work.

Hugo is a wonderful tribute to mechanics and humanity. The secrets which this movie holds in its heart are as fascinating as the visuals themselves. Halfway through the film, the narrative takes a sharp turn and unveils amazing tales and visuals from perhaps the  greatest art form of the 20th Century. Why should I spill the beans about it; why don’t you just book the tickets and watch this great piece of art in it’s all 3D glory this weekend? 🙂

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About the Author


Puru is an IT Project Manager from Pune, India and an avid blogger. He is passionate about travel, photography, cinema and books. He blogs on Shadows Galore, Art House Cinema, The Mutinous Indian and Antarnaad.

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  1. Arun Kumar

    Great review. I watched this movie on my computer, and liked it. Looks like, i need to watch it on a big screen in 3d to have a great experience.

    • Puru

      Thanks Arun. You may watch it again in the movie hall. The suspense may not be there but the visuals will be delightful.

  2. Antara

    I never expected Scorsese to make a movie like this! I mean, I expected something enormously wonderful of course (it is Scorsese after all), but this was so different from what I have seen of his work. Beautiful, beautiful.

    • Puru

      Exactly! A far cry from his earlier masterpieces which have violence as a central theme, Hugo is such a whiff of fresh breeze. This is so much like Spielberg! 

  3. Pramukhee

    The bigger story hidden in this movie was the brilliance of Geroge Melies. What a visionary he was! He imagined landing on the moon a full 70 years before Apollo 11 along with Neil Armstrong and his mates did.

    Watch this George Melies visualized, directed, acted in many such short films apart from being the set designer, sound engineer etc. George Melies team also hand-painted each frame to bring in colour. To top this all … it was done in the 1901 / 1902 …. just a couple of years after the birth of motion pictures when the world was still fascinated by the picture of a train arriving on the platform.  Quite obviously, the film made me a bigger fan of George Melies than Martin Scorsese! 🙂

  4. Puru

    Haha .. you ended up reveling what I was trying to keep hidden 😀 But very true. Being an ardent follower of the art that is cinema, I felt glad to know about George Melies 🙂

  5. Haricharan

    Yet another wonderful review. Hugo deserved every award it won at the Academy awards and you did full justice to this review 🙂 Hoping to see more of your reviews


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