Scorsese dazzles from the moment his first frame hits the projector - a swooping panoramic flyby of Paris settling down on the train station where young Hugo Cabret (the original title) is assigned the task of keeping the clocks in check. The orphaned Hugo (a polished Asa Butterfield) comes across broken down shopkeeper Georges Melies (a compelling Ben Kingsley) by way of thieving Melies' mechanical devices which sets off a chain of events that defines "destiny".
If there are issues to be had with 'Hugo', they lie in casting. While Sacha Baron Cohen delivers nicely on his socially awkward security guard role, the fact that it's 'Borat' is at first a bit distracting. Also curious - why Scorsese chose Chloe Moretz (brilliant in 'Let Me In') to feign British when he could have simply casted an actress who calls England home. There's one glaring scene where it's clear her attempted accent didn't fly and Scorsese was then forced to go back into the studio to overdub the dialogue.
Those minor matters aside - 'Hugo' is a celebration of the human spirit and our love affair with film. While it may not hit the emotional highs that Scorsese intended, it's the most resplendent directing effort of 2011 - a luminous triumph that may just remind you why our hearts leap when the lights go down in the movie theater.