Hugo Cabret (Asa Butterfield) lives behind the walls of a Paris train station. Following the death of his beloved father (Jude Law), his alcoholic uncle (Ray Winstone) teaches him how to keep the station's clocks working. Then he disappears. The 12-year-old boy continues to wind the various clocks and survives by stealing food from the shops. He is good at fixing things and is caught up in project begun with his father: repairing a broken automaton rescued from the ruins of an old museum; it is a boy that, once fixed, will be able to write.
Hugo, who doesn't attend school, is a very sheltered and shy lad who enjoys watching the interaction of the regulars at the railroad station. Among them are Mme. Emilie (Frances de la Tour) who runs the pastry shop and has a suitor (Richard Griffiths) who is frightened away each day by her protective dachshund; Lisette (Emily Mortimer) who sells flowers and is filled with good cheer; and a bookseller (Christopher Lee) whose arrogant exterior belies his kindness. A rigid law-and-order Station Inspector (Sacha Baron Cohen) is attracted to Lisette but turns out to be socially awkward thanks to a leg injured in the war. Hugo is afraid of him since he has seen him manhandle other stray boys and send them away to an orphanage.
But the most formidable person in the station is the mysterious Georges Melies (Ben Kingsley) who runs an old toy shop. When he catches Hugo and accuses him of stealing mechanical parts from him, the boy is petrified. He agrees to pay him back by fixing toys in the shop. Meanwhile, Melies keeps Hugo's notebook which contains instructions on restoring the automaton.
Hugo is surprised to find a loyal ally in Isabelle (Chloe Grace Moretz); she is the goddaughter of the toy shop owner and his wife, Mama Jeanne (Helen McCrory). An avid reader, she is looking for adventure and certainly finds the right companion in Hugo, who introduces her to the movies.
In his first family and 3D film, director Martin Scorsese has created an imaginative and free-flowing winner that touches the heart with the transformations Hugo brings about in Georges Melies. This genius starts out as a bitter and cynical man and winds up as a humble and grateful soul, thankful to those who bring back to life his secret career as a pioneering filmmaker who put images and scenes on the screen that were like dreams. The tie that binds them Hugo and Melies together is a mutual appreciation for the automaton and its secrets.
The screenplay by John Logan is based on The Invention of Hugo Cabret, a bestseller by Brian Selznick; it won the 2008 Caldecott Medal as "the most distinguished American picture book for children" and The New York Times' Best Illustrated Book of 2007. The film boasts some impressive performances by the acting ensemble. Hats off as well to the melodic and enchanting musical score by Howard Shore. And, last but not least, the film's celebration of film restoration is a fitting match to Martin Scorsese's own efforts in this noble goal.
Special features on the Two-disc DVD/Blu-ray combo include: "Shoot the Moon: The Making of Hugo"; "The Cinemagician, Georges Melies"; "The Mechanical Man at the Heart of Hugo"; "Big Effects, Small Scale"; and "Sacha Baron Cohen: Role of a Lifetime."