Viewed – 10 March 2012  Blu-ray

Few director’s have the encyclopaedic knowledge of cinema that Martin Scorsese does.  He’s a living and breathing movie historian, and the perfect choice to direct the adaptation of a children’s book that pays homage to the godfather of cinema, Georges Méliès .. a man who pioneered a wealth of camera techniques and special effects, delivering over 500 movies that pushed the definition of what was possible on film.  The story here follows a young orphan boy named Hugo (Asa Butterfield), who following the death of his father (Jude Law), is given the responsibility of looking after all the clocks in a grand Parisian train station.  Yet when his father leaves him a mechanical automaton, a quest to discover the secret of the device leads to a magnificent discovery.

This is a beautifully told, gently-paced fantasy, in the grand style of Charles Dickens and Frank Capra, with a cast of quality actors and keen attention to detail from the brilliant Martin Scorsese.  Here he has created a fine example of the family adventure tale, somewhat a departure for a man better known for his violent gangster movies – but nails it with the panache and expertise you would expect from one of the best in the business.  Supporting cast all add a great deal to proceedings, especially the increasingly charming Chloe Grace Moretz (Kick-Ass) and also a diverting, stand-out turn from Sasha Baron Cohen as a bumbling station guard.  A special mention must also go to Ben Kingsley, excellently conflicted as Georges Méliès, bringing real class to the whole story.  The young actor playing Hugo is good also, with his wide-eyed innocence capturing the feel of characters like Oliver Twist, which I’m guessing was the point.  It is also probably one of the best looking movies I have ever seen, with the Paris-set location and a wealth of stunning effects shots all creating a magical atmosphere.  My only real gripe is that the movie does drag its heals a bit in places, and it seems to conclude about three times – but these are very small things.

Overall though this is Scorsese breaking free of his more gritty, crime thriller routs and proving himself a master film maker, whatever the subject.  Ironic when you consider this is about the rediscovery of a master film maker.  A classic example of a director perfectly matched with material, and the kind of movie that reminds you why you love cinema.  Essential.

Verdict: 5 /5