The film, set in the bustle of Paris, circa 1935, revolves around a poor boy of eleven or twelve named Hugo. His father (Jude Law) , a former part-time inventor and factory worker, one day brought home a robot (called an "automaton") from a museum which discards it. The father is a master of designing and fixing things mechanical. When he dies in an industrial accident, Hugo's nasty uncle takes him in to help him keep the clocks going in a Paris train station. Soon the uncle, a heavy drinker, disappears. Forced to live by his wits in a railway station and keep one step ahead of a policeman (Sasha Baron Cohen), Hugo happens open a girl his own age whose father Georges (Ben Kingsley) owns a small toy shop in the rail station arcade. To Georges, a once-popular filmmaker turned into a forgotten man, this scruffy boy seems to be nothing but a thief, but in reality Hugo's crimes against the toy seller--stealing little gears and springs --are to complete the automaton. Slowly, a trust develops.
By completing the magic figure, the boy not only honors his father and finds the first steps on his own path in the world, but he lets the older man --formally his nemesis--embrace and stop denying his past as a magician and purveyor of dreams in the then-new medium of film.
Scorcese makes great use of the atmosphere you'd expect in a cosmopolitan train station, as well as the cemeteries, churches, and back alleys of a between-the-wars Paris. There's even cameos for the likes of author James Joyce and jazz guitarist Django Rinehart.
Hugo is definitely worth seeing if you love movies and compelling storytelling where imagination is celebrated and the master technologists and storytellers of one age salute their earlier peers.