It was probably a bit worrying for some to find out that Martin Scorcese, director of such films as Taxi Driver, Raging Bull, and Goodfellas, had plans to do what looks like a children’s film with a bit of romance thrown in. But then again, it’s Scorcese. You can pretty much bet your entire life savings that he’ll do good and not expect to lose anything (unless you bet on Shutter Island, the less said about that the better…)
The fact is, although it is mostly aimed at children, what with the magical look and feel of it, and Sacha Baron Cohen’s comic relief he so perfectly provides. Even the two main stars, Asa Butterfield (The Boy In The Striped Pyjamas) and Chloe Moretz (Kick-Ass) are children. But whilst there’s plenty for the kids to gasp and be amazed at, there’s plenty more for us big ‘uns.
Butterfield is the main star of the film, playing Hugo Caberet, a boy who lives in a paris train station and spends his days endlessly winding clocks around the station whilst desperately trying to fix his late fathers automaton, a clockwork robot basically. He holds the story together brilliantly and his on screen chemistry with Moretz is just outstanding. But the main thing that made this film less of a kids film and more of a Scorsese film was the romance. Yes there is a bit of romance between the two children but as the film continues on it becomes apparent that this was all a front. The real reason for Scorsese’s saunter into the kids film genre is to show his love for film.
Set in early 1920s France is the best way to do this it seems, as the story takes a frankly brilliant turn into the beginnings of film itself. With classic references starting to crop up towards the halfway mark (and by classic I don’t mean the ones you can spot every few seconds in any Tarantino movie, I mean references to the Lumiére brothers among many other pioneers of early film).
So fear not! Although this isn’t gritty and includes neither swear words, gangsters, or even Robert De Niro, Scorsese proves that at 69 years old he can still be a magician behind the camera. The only bad point about this film is the 3D. Although I have come to accept that 3D is good sometimes I must admit I found no use for it here. But hey, it’s a damn sight better than Shitter Island…