Chloë Grace Moretz
After his inventor father (Jude Law) dies, the title 12-year-old (Asa Butterfield) takes shelter in the Paris train station Gare Montparnasse, operating the clocks and dodging a stern station manager (Sacha Baron Cohen) and his Doberman. Hugo makes it his young life’s purpose to unravel the mysteries behind his father’s final invention, an automaton capable of (at least) writing. At his side is another orphan, curious bookworm Isabelle (Chloë Grace Moretz).
The automaton is linked, we find, to George Méliès (Ben Kingsley), who casual moviegoers may not recognize, but will that famous image of a rocket planted in the moon’s eye, a major cinematic event created by Méliès three decades before the events of Hugo.
The title is a bit misleading. Though the story is propelled by Hugo’s quest, it is clearly more about Méliès, the pioneer who started as a magician, worked his way to films at the dawn of the medium, saw his prints being melted into shoe heels during WWI, and wound up selling toys at the Gare Montparnasse--all factual specifics that help develop the world of Hugo.
Hugo, based on Brian Selznick’s The Invention of Hugo Cabret, is a passion project through and through. Not only does it emphasize the importance of cinema preservation, but it also has the potential to excite kids and open the doors for them to explore movies made a century before they were born. It is a glimpse at film’s past and its potential for the future. Along with Cinema Paradiso and The Purple Rose of Cairo, Hugo is one of the most wonderful examples of why we love movies.
The Cinemagician, George Méliès (15:41): This is a loving portrait of the film pioneer, played in Hugo by Ben Kingsley. Clips of some of his films and comments from various admirers provide a solid overview of the life and work of Méliès.
The Mechanical Man at the Heart of Hugo (12:45): This featurette focuses on the history of automata and their role in the film.
Big Effects, Small Scale (5:55): Here, the effects-heavy dream sequence that depicts the 1895 derailment at the Gare Montparnasse is put under the microscope.
Sacha Baron Cohen: Role of a Lifetime (3:33): In this brief, amusing piece, the devotion and difficulties of Cohen, who plays Inspector Gustave, is discussed.