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Released: 2nd December 2011 (UK)

Director: Martin Scorsese

Stars: Asa Butterfield, Chole Grace Moretz, Christopher Lee

Certificate: U

Reviewer: Ben Harris

Martin Scorsese, the legendary director who brought us the likes of Taxi Driver, The Departed and Gangs of New York, surprisingly brings us a family friendly film just in time for the Christmas period.

Set in 1930s Paris, an orphan named Hugo (Asa Butterfield) lives in the walls of a train station, where he maintains the clocks alone after his uncle’s death. He’s a gifted boy who learnt about mechanics from his late father (Jude Law) and he is determined to finish his fathers project of repairing an automaton (a mechanical man who writes) however one piece is missing – a key. Thinking the machine is a message from his father Hugo goes on the search for the key but not wanting to be sent to an orphanage Hugo must avoid being captured by the train inspector (Sacha Baron Cohen). Along the way on his so-called journey he befriends a young girl named Isabelle (Chloe Moretz) and together they learn about the automaton’s past.

The film benefits from Scorsese’s great sense of direction and like most of his previous work ‘Hugo’ is visually captivating. This is surprisingly helped by the brilliant 3D. To show off its full potential Scorsese uses interesting and creative angles resulting in the 3D being an important asset instead of a cheap gimmick. It obviously adds depth but most importantly works with the story.

From the start the plot seemed to be directing towards a mystery revolving around Hugo, his father and the missing key. However the key is easily found and the story goes down a different route concentrating on an entirely different character, Papa George, who’s past has a connection with the automaton. Papa Georges’ back-story, which honestly isn’t that interesting and didn’t seem to be going anywhere, could have been wrapped up quickly but it’s dragged out giving the film an unnecessary long running time. With the film heavily relying on Papa George it felt the story wasn’t about Hugo anymore.

Plot elements, mainly being the random death of Hugo’s father, are never fully explained even though Hugo himself wants to find out what happened. The story would have been more interesting if the mystery concentrated on that aspect and dug deeper into Hugo’s life and relationship with his father.

A likeable cast graces our screens with Asa Butterfield as the lead title character and he does a decent job considering he hasn’t had the most experience. Chloe Moretz is good as always, Sacha Baron Cohen brings humour and Ben Kingsley is great as Papa Georges who struggles with the neglecting of his past. It’s a shame we don’t see them doing much.

There is no denying ‘Hugo’ is a well-made film. It looks great with it’s bold direction but isn’t the most exciting piece of storytelling. It lacks a certain spark and honestly is one of the most overrated movies this year.

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