Blu-ray Review: Hugo

Based on The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick, Hugo has given Martin Scorsese a rare opportunity to make a movie for adults devoid of sex, violence, or profanity, but still manages a real emotional depth, despite an airy exterior. While Hugo is perfectly appropriate for younger viewers, some may become bored by the film’s leisurely pace. Their attention may wander.

HugoSet in the early 1930s, young Hugo (Asa Butterfield), orphaned after the death of his father, lives inside the walls of a Paris train station tending the clocks after his alcoholic uncle (the person originally in charge of keeping the station’s clocks working) disappears. Stealing pastries to survive, he must avoid the station inspector (Sacha Baron Cohen), who thrives on chasing thieves and locking up runaway orphans. Hugo maintains a connection to his father through an automaton—a mechanical humanoid created to write independently and with only a turn of a key—that they had been repairing together. Hugo believes that it might contain a special message for him; he spends his spare time trying to restore it to working order. To do so, he must steal gears and other material from a shopkeeper named Georges’ (Ben Kingsley). After Georges’ catches Hugo stealing, not only does he take back his gears, but confiscates his prized notebook containing pictures of the automaton. It becomes clear that things aren’t necessarily as they seem. Georges’ is brusque, and attempts to scare Hugo with threats and intimidation. However, despite Georges’ bluster, Kingsley plays him with a twinge of sadness that’s hard to ignore.

Devastated, Hugo follows Georges home, pleading to have his prized notebook returned to him; his pleas fall on deaf ears. However, he does get to meet Georges’ goddaughter Isabelle (Chloë Grace Moretz), a precocious, adventure-seeking girl who befriends Hugo despite Georges’ objections. The two begin an incredible adventure, their friendship the solution to answering longstanding questions, revealing identities, reaffirming greatness, and bringing people together.

The performances of Ben Kingsley and Asa Butterfield give Hugo real emotional depth. Kingsley is wonderful as an old man who has been beaten down by life, and longs for a return to earlier days. Butterfield expertly plays Hugo as a boy looking for a place to fit in. The supporting cast includes Sacha Baron Cohen who gets to show off his comedic skills as Hugo’s nemesis; Emily Mortimer and Richard Griffiths as station merchants whose lives unfold as Hugo watches; Helen McCrory as Mama Jeanne, Georges’ wife; Ray Winstone as Hugo’s alcoholic uncle; Jude Law as Hugo’s father and Christopher Lee as a bookseller. Hugo proves that some of Hollywood’s best and brightest talents are willing to take the smallest of parts for the privilege of being in a Scorsese movie.

Presented in the 1.78:1 aspect ratio, Paramount’s 1080p transfer is absolutely beautiful. Black levels are wonderfully inky, sporty detail that is superb throughout. Colors are vivid and bold with no bleeding. Compression artifacting, edge enhancement or any digital anomalies aren’t an issue.

The DTS-HD 7.1 Master Audio sound mix is just as impressive as the video. Dialogue is nothing short of fabulous. Music, atmospherics and effects come through the surrounds effectively. Dynamic range is unbelievable, fidelity is incredibly sharp. Great stuff all around.

French, Portuguese, and Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 sound mixes are included, as are English, English SDH, French, Spanish, and Portuguese subtitles.

The following special features are available:

  • Shoot the Moon (The Making of Hugo) (HD, 19:48): Cast, crew, and author Brian Selznick discuss the process of adapting the book for the screen, the work of Director Martin Scorsese, the story’s themes, casting, costuming, adding the dogs to the cast, working with 3D, set design and special effects, and more.
  • The Cinemagician, Georges Méliès (HD, 15:41): A look at the life and influences of the filmmaker and an examination of his role in this story.
  • The Mechanical Man at the Heart of Hugo (HD, 12:45): A piece that examines the history of automata and briefly examines the design of the automaton seen in the film.
  • Big Effects, Small Scale (HD, 5:55): A brief look at the making of one of the film’s special effects shots.
  • Sacha Baron Cohen: Role of a Lifetime (1080p 3:33): A humorous look at getting into character.
  • Standard DVD Copy.
  • UV Copy.
  • Digital Copy.

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