Film review | Hugo - Scorsese turns children's storyteller with a dash of Parisian panache

Hugo Asa Butterfield

Martin Scorsese’s first ever film for children, Hugo (opens in new tab) is both a joyful and enchanting adventure tale and a loving tribute to the early days of cinema and one of its neglected pioneers.

Based on the award-winning novel The Invention of Hugo Cabret (opens in new tab) by Brian Selznick (opens in new tab), the film takes place in 1931 Paris and revolves around a resourceful young orphan (Asa Butterfield (opens in new tab) from The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas (opens in new tab)) who lives a clandestine existence behind the clocks of one of the city’s biggest train stations.

Since the death of his father (a charming Jude Law (opens in new tab) in a brief role), Hugo has sought solace in completing their cherished project of repairing a broken automaton, an intricate clockwork mannequin. His attempts to scavenge the parts he needs, while dodging Sacha Baron Cohen (opens in new tab)’s zealous station inspector, bring him into contact with the crotchety owner of the station’s toy booth (Ben Kingsley (opens in new tab)) and his spirited goddaughter, Isabelle (Kick-Ass (opens in new tab) girl Chloe Grace Moretz (opens in new tab)).

Hugo Asa Butterfield Chloe Grace Moretz

It turns out that Kingsley’s disheartened Papa Georges is as much in need of tender restoration as the automaton. Before both feats can be achieved, the spindly waif and his new friend enjoy a series of escapades in and around the station - filmed with dash and humour in exhilarating 3D - in the course of which they and we learn Papa Georges’s full identity and his importance to the history of cinema.

Cinematic history is, of course, a subject dear to Scorsese, who has made it his mission to honour great filmmakers and preserve their legacy. He puts this passion on screen in Hugo, affectionately recreating some iconic scenes from early silent cinema and interweaving them into a touching and exciting tale of childhood adventure.

On general release from Friday 2nd December 2011.


Jason Best

A film critic for over 25 years, Jason admits the job can occasionally be glamorous – sitting on a film festival jury in Portugal; hanging out with Baz Luhrmann at the Chateau Marmont; chatting with Sigourney Weaver about The Archers – but he mostly spends his time in darkened rooms watching films. He’s also written theatre and opera reviews, two guide books on Rome, and competed in a race for Yachting World, whose great wheeze it was to send a seasick film critic to write about his time on the ocean waves. But Jason is happiest on dry land with a classic screwball comedy or Hitchcock thriller.