Sakamoto Reviews’s review published on Letterboxd:
“Everything has a purpose, clocks tell you the time, trains takes you to places. I 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. And that means you have to be here for some reason, too.”
- Hugo Cabret
Hugo is about a young boy named Hugo who fixes and runs all the clocks in a train station whilst searching for his purpose in life. He joins a girl named Isabelle in finding out secrets of her father which in turn may help find some purpose regarding his late father and an automaton left by him.
I committed a cardinal sin while watching this and that is not watching it in 3D. Wasn't by my own free will, Netflix as far as I know doesn't have a 3D option to some of their movies. In short I really liked it. This movie is a sweet love letter to the silent era of film as well as a nice mystery/adventure film. The films strongest feat is its directing. Martin Scorsese stepped out of his comfort zone for this film by giving us a family friendly, feel good flick that focuses on a child rather than a historical figure and their inevitable downfall by the end.
Acting is pretty good across the board. I think the weakest link is Chloe Grace Moretz however Ben Kingsley, Asa Butterfield and Sacha Baron Cohen do a damn fine job in their roles. Something that stuck out to me was that nobody speaks with a French accent, I'm not one for accents but certain words I caught ontk should have been pronounced differently like when everyone refers to Hugos last name as Cabret when Christopher Lee pronounces it accurately as 'Cabaret' like someone from France would.
I have a couple thoughts regarding Hugo and his station in the narrative. Hugo is fictional, he didn't exist and his relation to the automaton and Georges Méliès didn't exist however I started to think that maybe Hugo is a reflection of the child lost within Georges and the automaton was a metaphor for his past. Georges Mélèis goes through a transformation throughout the film from resenting his work and passion to embracing it and I think Hugo is a good reflection of that. This is supported by the end when Georges adopts Hugo and in turn the automaton thus embracing his passion and child-like wonder. Hugo in other words didn't have to exist from a thematic angle as in real life Georges inevitably embraced his passion when he was lost much as it's shown in the movie.
On the contrary however say the film is trying to be literal rather than metaphorical, Hugo never really goes through that parallel arc in terms of finding his passion. He's really good at clockwork and fixing things and there's a soft nod towards the idea that his passion is magic however at that point in the narrative the film clearly shifts focus from Hugo finding his place to Georges finding his place which I don’t think is a particularly good thing. If Hugo is meant to be a reflections of Georges then why name him Hugo? I (because I’m an Oscar nominated, award winning director and creator) would have simply named him Georges and that could help Ben Kingsley’s character find sympathy for this kid. Might be too on the nose but still.
Some problems and small nitpicks just to get them out of the way. I think the films editing is good but shy of Scorseses best work, there a quite a few shot changes where people aren't standing exactly the same way they were for example, there's a single shot of Hugo walking alone by some statues when he should be with the Georges Mélèis. It was pretty easy to pinpoint the adlib when it was used. The CGI is also kind of dated. I could easily pinpoint the green screen when it was used and the color palette looked off in some ways. In certain shots the characters skin looked grey almost as if they were dead. Why would Hugo try to steal the mouse right in front of the shop owner? This kicks off the whole plot but it's just based off of the one thing thieves should never do.
In the end this was a pretty good watch that I would recommend to any fan of film. Even though it’s framed as a family film I can’t necessarily guarantee that kids would like it since it lacks a lot of adventure elements that would keep them engaged in favor of a mystery styled plot but this was neat. Another one off my to watch list.