At the Movies: ‘Hugo’ a glorious, gleaming visual experience |

At the Movies: ‘Hugo’ a glorious, gleaming visual experience

Andy Bockelman is a member of the Denver Film Critics Society, and his movie reviews appear in Explore Steamboat and the Craig Daily Press.
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Movie at a glance ...


4 out of 4 stars

128 minutes

Starring: Asa Butterfield, Ben Kingsley, Chloë Grace Moretz and Sacha Baron Cohen.

Movie at a glance …


4 out of 4 stars

128 minutes

Starring: Asa Butterfield, Ben Kingsley, Chloë Grace Moretz and Sacha Baron Cohen.

By this point in the year, you’ve probably tired of superficial popcorn movies with halfhearted effects.

If you’re hoping to rekindle your love of movies, all you need to do is get a ticket to meet a child named “Hugo.”

Within the walls of a Paris train station in 1931 lives a boy named Hugo Cabret (Asa Butterfield). He has managed to stay out of trouble and out of an orphanage by keeping out of sight and performing maintenance on the station’s many clocks, a task left to him by his drunken uncle (Ray Winstone), who has since absconded.

Hugo’s sense of survival is coupled with a need to repair a project of his late father (Jude Law), a mechanical man that the boy believes may contain a secret.

Swiping spare parts from an unfriendly old toy salesman (Ben Kingsley) only serves to endanger his chances of completing the work he deems so important, which is starting to attract attention from the station’s security guard (Sacha Baron Cohen).

When Hugo meets the old man’s goddaughter Isabelle (Chloë Grace Moretz), he finds friendship for the first time, but perhaps more importantly he may have found what he needs to unlock the mystery that has haunted him for so long.

After his breakout role in “The Boy in the Striped Pajamas,” it looked like we could expect great things from young actor Butterfield, and it’s wonderful to see that potential increase. It’s not that hard for a wide-eyed kid to play a dreamer, but getting into character as someone who’s got nothing in life and little hope for much else takes some skill, which he does finely with Hugo.

Moretz also keeps up that mix of someone who’s still got some semblance childhood innocence but has still suffered some heartbreak, taking command as highly literate and exploratory Isabelle.

As the man she knows as Papa Georges, Kingsley astonishes as a man who has a closer tie to Hugo than either of them realizes.

And, then there’s Cohen as the gauche, child-hating Inspector Gustav, who ambles around the station with his leg in a rusty brace, still recovering from a war wound.

We haven’t seen him get this physical since “Borat,” but his loping efforts to chase down Hugo lead to big laughs, even with the help of his trusty Doberman, Maximilian.

It’s a sight to behold as all the vendors and travelers in the train station make it come alive, whether it’s a bubbly florist (Emily Mortimer), a kindly bookseller (Christopher Lee), or a café owner (Frances de la Tour) and a newsstand operator (Richard Griffiths) looking for love.

Such vivid facets of the mise-en-scène are something you’d expect from director Martin Scorsese, even if the announcement of his handling of an adaptation of Brian Selznick’s children’s book “The Invention of Hugo Cabret” may have caught you off-guard. “Raging Bull” and “GoodFellas” may have some competition as Scorsese’s best movie, as the filmmaker powers into new territory with visionary management of the story and all that goes along with it.

Like the hundreds upon hundreds of cogs, gears and springs at work in the clocks that Hugo keeps up, timing is everything and there’s not a single slip-up to be seen. As good as this tale of discovery is, it’s only part of the total immersion into a whole new world brought about by outstanding 3-D camerawork.

This isn’t some hokey bombardment of effects with things jumping off the screen at various intervals. Scorsese uses the third dimension as a subtle tool that lets us experience more than we ever thought we could, as we get swirled by a puff of smoke from an incoming train, feel the outside snow whip by our faces or stare into the light of a film projector.

The intent behind “Hugo” is making the impossible possible and reaching new heights after being trodden down.

The man behind it all keeps everything flowing smoothly and shows us the power that film can have in inspiring the believer in us all.

What’s more, his recreation of silent film comedian Harold Lloyd’s most famous moment may be the best tribute to bygone cinema ever.

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