An impressive movie version of Les Misérables has arrived, based on the hit stage show adaptation of Victor Hugo’s novel, set among the poor civilians in 19th century France. Fans of musical theatre will be thrilled to see the actors sing all their lines, which leads to some real emotional intensity. This is a revolutionary musical in more ways than one. The piece has much grittier realism than I expected, but it also triggers imaginative cinematography, sets, costumes and make up, all of which made the movie sensational to watch.
Les Misérables tells the story of Jean Valjean, a decent man imprisoned for stealing bread to save his sisters family. Once he escapes, he is desperately pursued by police officer Javert for breaking his parole. His journey as a homeless man leads him to a respectable and graceful priest who teaches him the importance of honesty and Jean is transformed into an admirable mayor. Along the way he meets Fantine, a distressed prostitute who is willing to risk her life for her young daughter Cosette. Out of good heart Jean decides to raise the angelic orphan.
Oscar Award winning director Tom Hooper goes to extreme measures to deliver realism, often through intimate close up shots, allowing the actors to strengthen their performance and emotional appeal. The film differs from typical Hollywood movies because it often possesses more painful and unexpected events that constantly keep you on the edge of your seat.
Hugh Jackman ultimately steals the spotlight as Jean Valjean. His stage experience and screen presence both physically and emotionally devours the films essence. But the real revelation is Anne Hathaway’s tragic heroin. Her performance as the distressed Fantine is both moving and extremely desolate. The star is Jackman but Russell Crowe delivers the most open and human performance as the repulsive police officer. Amanda Seyfried and Eddie Redmayne are ideal love birds, destined for each other from the very beginning. Comedy relief comes in the form of Sacha Baren Cohen and Helen Bonham Carter as spiteful innkeepers.
Overall, each character presents stunning and memorable performances and everyone receives a firm recognition. Les Misérables is an outstanding dramatic musical that everyone can cherish. The movie isn’t perfect and not as well executed as Tom Hooper’s The Kings Speech, but in its strongest moments and the flawless first hour, it comes close to one of the greatest musicals ever created. Sometimes scenes seem dull and it may be all music and lyrics but the film is an edgy approach to original moral themes and context and overall a pleasure to watch.