Following the death of his father in a fire, twelve year old Hugo Cabret has moved into the walls of a Paris train station where he uses the skills his uncle taught him to keep the station's clocks running. When Hugo isn't scavenging food or picking up parts to keep the clocks running he is trying to repair an automaton which his father was working on before his death. His quest to make it work brings him to shop keeper George Melies (Ben Kingsley) and his goddaughter Isabelle (Chloë Grace Moretz) who becomes a friend to young Hugo and who shares an unlikely connection with the automaton.
"The film was received with critical acclaim, with many critics praising the visuals, acting, and direction" is a sentence which I found on Wikipedia and sums up "Hugo" quite brilliantly. Now the irony of this is that those words are not unusual when you talk about the movies of Martin Scorsese as so many of his movies features good visuals, acting and direction. Yet "Hugo" is a movie which is as far from what you expect from Scorsese as you can get with its child orientated adventure and mystery story all but one aimed at a more grown up audience.
Now there is no denying that "Hugo" is an amazing movie on a visual level with its romanticized vision of Paris during the 1930s often observed via Hugo's vision as he peers through the numbers on a clock face. The detail is astonishing and has a real craftsman like quality to it with a feel that Scorsese was paying homage to the film makers he grew up watching. You could write essays on what Scorsese has done visually and whilst having not watched "Hugo" in 3D I imagine it is even more of a visual treat.
"Hugo" also features enjoyable performance with young Asa Butterfield showing once again what a young talent he is with Chloë Grace Moretz bringing plenty of energy to her part as Isabelle. Yet a lot of the charm of "Hugo" comes from the plethora of well known faces that show up throughout the movie be it the late Richard Griffiths as a rotund gentleman who works at the station to Ben Kingsley as toy shop owner George Melies.
But here is the thing about "Hugo" and for all the pretty visuals, the enjoyable performances, the touches of Scorsese like the camera work and the use of music "Hugo" has one problem and I bet you can guess what it is. Nope, well it is the story because sadly the story is not good enough to match up to everything else going on in Scorsese's creation. Oh it is a magical, mysterious story and beautifully innocent but lags behind in quality to everything else and it is a shame.
What this all boils down to is that "Hugo" is one of the most beautiful movies of recent years and it is astonishing what Scorsese had done in a genre you don't expect him to work in. But unfortunately "Hugo" is desperately let down by its story and feels at times like Scorsese got so wrapped up in the look of his creation that the story some times feels like it has been forgotten about.