Sunday, November 27, 2011

Hugo - A Fully Functional Machine

File:Hugo Poster.jpg

In early 2007, a book was released titled The Invention of Hugo Cabret, by Brian Selznik. It's a rather interesting book in that while some of the story is told through written word, some of it is also told through gorgeously detailed drawings that help carry the narrative. This is one of the best books I have read in recent years, and if you find it anywhere I would highly recommend picking it up. Recently, this same book was adapted into a movie, simply called Hugo, directed by Martin Scorsese. Having enjoyed the book, I was curious to see how a book like that would translate to film; I was not disappointed one bit with the final result.

In a 1930 Paris train station, a young boy named Hugo (Asa Butterfield) is keeping the clocks running behind the scenes after his uncle disappears. After he gets caught trying to steal a wind-up toy from a toy shop, he is forced to relinquish a notebook to the shopkeeper. After failing to get it back, Hugo retreats to his living space within the walls of the station, where it is discovered that he is working on repairing an old automaton, which he requires the notebook to accomplish. He later meets a girl named Isabelle (Chloë Grace Moretz), a relative of the shopkeeper, as he discovers the secret behind the automaton.

The movie does a very good job of adapting the book, even if it takes a few creative liberties (saying which ones would likely ruin the story for you). It's amazing how much attention to detail is put into the setting, especially the intricacies of moving mechanical parts. A particular favorite of mine is when the automaton begins to move because it's fun to see all the small parts interact to achieve the end result.

On the subject of interaction, the acting is rather impressive, even the performances coming from the supporting cast. This really helps the dialogue flow naturally and you really get a sense of what the characters are feeling. At times when special effects are used, they are simply stunning and help bring certain scenes to life, particularly within Hugo's dream sequences.

One of the themes of Hugo is the history of older films, and the usage of such footage is used to its full advantage. Several clips can be seen from the works of Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton, Harold Lloyd (particularly Safety Last), and especially from the many films of Georges Méliès. It's a little better to be aware of some of the older films featured going in, but it's still really nice to see how it helps tell the story.

Hugo is a simply wonderful movie that one shouldn't miss, especially for fans of the book on which it's based. The attention to detail is astounding, to where even the little things are amazing to watch. You also might want to have some tissues on hand, because it can get really emotional at times.

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