Martin Scorsese is easily, in my estimation, one of the greatest film directors ever. He earns that distinction not only because of the consistency of his body of work, but the wide range of genres he has tackled. We are talking everything from organized crime, intense drama, Elizabethan period pieces, religious, docudrama, ghost, music video, documentary, television, and even a quasi-musical.


Most directors can't get out of one or two genres or, can only excel in one genre. For all his greatness, Alfred Hitchcock was pretty much set on psychological suspense thrillers. John Hughes did strictly family oriented films. Scorsese stands right up there with John Ford, William Wyler, Frank Capra, and Howard Hawks as a director whose body of work transcends the industry.

But his finest work have been films pertaining to crime and organized crime. When you think of Scorsese you don't think of gushy, mushy, wholesome family films. But that may change as he tackles his first family oriented film. Wait... there's more... in 3D no less.


"Hugo" is adapted from the Brian Selznick children's book The Invention of Hugo Cabret which won the 2008 Caldecott Medal for the most distinguished American picture book for children. With such an honor, it seems fit that any film adaptation be equally stunning.

The unique aspect of the book is that it has over 300 illustrations that are all double page spreads giving the book a kind of graphic novel feel. However, many of the illustrations are close-ups of themselves, lending the aura of a flip-book. The words provide an amazing story, the illustration give the feeling of motion throughout, thus making this 526 page book very child friendly.


So there is a logic to why Scorsese chose to film "Hugo" in 3D - this was not [necessarily] a cheap move to make an extra $3 per ticket. This is the understanding and realization of the added depth the 3D can provide.

The film centers around a french boy named Hugo Cabret (Asa Butterfield) who secretly lives in the Paris train station. He is alone and spends his days foraging for food and supplies for his mechanical automaton - a type of mechanical man. While doing so, he sets and winds the various clocks scattered throughout the station; he gains access by navigating through between the walls of the massive building.


We quickly learn that Hugo is there because his father (briefly played by Jude Law) was killed and he was sent to live with his uncle Claude (Ray Winstone) an alcoholic who disappears days at a time. but Hugo is quite adept at existing by himself and with the exception of the station policeman (Sasha Baron Cohen) hounding him, he goes mostly undetected.


That is by everyone save an elderly gentleman (Ben Kingsley) who operates a watch repair stand. Hugo swipes things from him because he has precision tools and parts that are helpful in the restoration of the automaton. The automaton is central as the one item that links all the characters together - his late father who found it, whoever built it, and of course Hugo.


But the main piece missing is a heart shaped key that starts the machinery. That key, is around the neck of the old man's granddaughter Isabelle (Chloe Grace Moretz). Hugo will eventually meet and befriend Isabelle leading to the unlocking the automaton, but also the mystery surrounding her grandfather and a history lesson in filmmaking.

That history lesson is the second aspect of "Hugo" as the film explores the beginnings of filmmaking with Georges Melies, the French director who gave us "A Trip to the Moon (Le voyage dans la lune)" the worlds first sci-fi film in 1919.


This is not unusual for Scorsese, he has mixed history with fiction successful before. "The Gangs of New York", "The Aviator", "Casino", "The Last Temptation of Christ", and "Raging Bull" all had extensive historic backgrounds. It is what made the films not only entertaining but interesting.


But with "Hugo" Scorsese has taken the use of 3D and added a fanciful depth that gives the film the same look of wonderment that Selznick portrayed in the novel. And this is the single greatest quality of the film. It draws you in to the film, into the station, into the walls and clocks of the station, into the automaton, and even into the mind of the characters. Characters who are perfectly cast. Yes Sasha Baron Cohen perfectly cast in a Scorsese film. But if you recall, so was Jerry Lewis in "The King of Comedy".


Colors are richly saturated and the cinematography is award worthy. This is the epitome of a Scorsese film. Each actor including Emily Mortimer (who plays a delightful shop

keeper) and Christopher Lee (a bookshop owner) know their roles and are perfectly placed. A tribute to the willingness to work with a great director like Scorsese.


"Hugo" is not your typical holiday family film but may go down as one of the greatest ever made. It is one of the best uses of 3D and does justice to a Caldecott Medal winner, possible becoming a winner itself.   -- GEOFF BURTON