Surprisingly enough, Les Misérables hit us right in the gut — but in a good way. It’s hard not to get swept up in the music and emotion pouring out of the film. While it’s not perfect, the latest adaptation of the classic is solid and ready to be taken in by a new generation of fans.
- Director: Tom Hooper
- Writer: William Nicholson
- Cast: Hugh Jackman, Russell Crowe, Anne Hathaway, Amanda Seyfried, Eddie Redmayne, Sacha Baron Cohen, Helena Bonham Carter, Samantha Barnks, Aaron Tveit
- Cinematography: Danny Cohen
Jean Valjean (Jackman), also known as Prisoner 24601, has spent years behind bars for stealing a loaf of bread in order to save his sister and her child from starvation. Now finally on parole, Valjean tries to turn his life around and claims a new identity. He tries his best to hide from the diligent Inspector Javert (Crowe) amongst the backdrop of a post-revolutionary France.
- What a Performance: Believe the hype. Most of the cast is at the top of their game, especially Jackman. He’s already a known presence onscreen, thanks to the X-Men movies, but now the rest of the world can see him as a multi-talented actor. The same could go for Hathaway, glistening bright if only for a short amount of screen time as the poor Fantine.
- From Novel to Movie Musical: This isn’t the first time Les Misérables has been turned into a movie of some sort (the last being in 1998). What makes this one so different compared to others? It’s normally a perfect formula, combined with talent behind and in front of that camera that make it possible. At the same time no proper adaptation can be any good if the script is garbage. William Nicholson’s interpretation of the Victor Hugo’s work, and different versions of the musical, is a sweet concoction of the two. The film’s 157 minutes long but there are so many events happening that we’re hooked from beginning to end. It doesn’t feel bunched up or uneven.
- How it Works as a Musical: For those who don’t like sitting through a movie where most of the dialogue is sung, Les Misérables isn’t for you. Everybody is singing pretty much through the entire film, and it works. Fans of the musical understand key scenes hold more weight, when the character’s anguish, hope and pain is expressed through song. It gives us that additional layer of emotion and drama that the audience needs for such a complex piece.
- Hooper Behind the Camera: Director Tom Hooper has a specific style about his movies. He’s a fan of color saturation, swooping track shots and side framing of his actors through pivotal scenes. In some ways its simplistic but definitely gets the job done. This time around, in contrast to The King’s Speech, it appeared as if Hooper was playing around a bit more. Every once in awhile it felt awkward when he’d just leave the camera there. In contrast, we like his technique of locking onto the actor’s face for an entire song. It’s best displayed in a couple of the most heart-wrenching songs placed in the movie. At least he’s trying to change it up.
- Apologies Russell Crowe: Crowe’s getting a really bad wrap for his performance in the film. His singing isn’t as awful as others make it out to be. He doesn’t match the operatic vocals of Jackman or Seyfried, but he gets the job done. At the same time though he’s the stiffest actor in the bunch. We know playing Inspector Javert comes with a certain kind of stature and poise, but move a little bit. You’re an actor, not a robot.
Les Misérables is an absolute tear-jerker. It’s a depressing story that has a glimmer of hope for what’s to come. It’s a nice cornerstone of literature that’s been properly translated to the screen. It’s transformed into a moving journey that shows how humans can persevere through the worst of circumstances.
The Rating: 8.5/10
Les Misérables will be out in theaters on Christmas Day.
Will you be seeing Les Miserables this Christmas?