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An entrancing look at 'Hugo'

November 25, 2011|By Andy Klein
  • Left to right: Asa Butterfield plays Hugo Cabret and Chloe Grace Moretz plays Isabelle in "Hugo," from Paramount Pictures and GK Films. (Photo by Jaap Buitendijk, GK Films)
Left to right: Asa Butterfield plays Hugo Cabret and Chloe…

Martin Scorsese is not the first name that pops to mind when you say “family entertainment.” But he is a great director, and his new “Hugo” proves that his reach extends beyond hard-edged urban films (“Taxi Driver,” “Goodfellas”) and thrillers (“Cape Fear,” “The Departed”). It also proves that 3-D can be used inventively and with purpose.

Adapted from the bestselling “The Invention of Hugo Cabret,” it opens with an insane “continuous single take” tracking shot — some of which was obviously done with CGI — that in five minutes or so shows us Hugo's entire physical milieu, in which 90% of the film takes place. That environment is the Montparnasse railway station, Paris, 1931. Recently orphaned, young Hugo (Asa Butterfield) is taken in by his brutish uncle (Ray Winstone), who lives and works in the station and who promptly disappears. In order to evade the authorities — primarily the officious station master (Sacha Baron Cohen) — Hugo clandestinely takes over his uncle's job … winding the giant clocks that overlook both the terminal and the Paris skyline.

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When he's not sneaking around the station, filching bits of food, he works at fixing a complex metal “man” — an automaton his father (Jude Law) had been working on when he died. Hugo is convinced that, if he can get it running, he will discover a message left by Dad. At the same time, he develops an uneasy relationship with the crabby old man (Ben Kingsley) who runs the depot's toy shop and an easier one with Isabelle (Chloe Grace Moretz), another orphan, who is being raised by the old man and his wife.

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