Set against the backdrop of 19th-century France,Les Misrables tells an enthralling story of broken dreams and unrequited love, passion, sacrifice and redemption - a timeless testament to the survival of the human spirit. Jackman plays ex-prisoner Jean Valjean, hunted for decades by the ruthless policeman Javert (Crowe) after he breaks parole. When Valjean agrees to care for factory worker Fantine's (Hathaway) young daughter, Cosette, their lives change forever. Featuring an incredible cast who give truly outstanding performances including: Hugh Jackman, Oscar winner... Russell Crowe, Anne Hathaway, Amanda Seyfried, Eddie Redmayne, Aaron Tveit, Samantha Barks, and Helena Bonham Carter and Sacha Baron Cohen. Filmed by the visionary Academy-Award Director of The King's Speech, Tom Hooper. [show more]
Before I even start this review, let me acknowledge that I know I'm in the minority with my opinion on Tom Hooper's cinematic adaptation of Les Miserables. When it was released last year, it won plenty of accolades for its epic cinematic visuals, its singing performances (captured "live" as the action was being filmed, rather than dubbed over afterwards) and for its faithfulness not only to the original stage musical but also to the Victor Hugo novel on which both are based. But all of that is worth nothing if you don't care about the characters or the plot - and personally, I didn't see anything in this movie to make me invest emotionally in these people or their story.
The start of the film promises great things, as an epic scene of a gigantic sea-vessel being pulled into harbour by a group of prisoners immediately establishes the scale that Hooper is aiming for with this adaptation. At the same time, it introduces us to Hugh Jackman's Jean Valjean (the hero of the piece, an ex-convict on the search for redemption) and Russell Crowe's Javert, the lawkeeper who also serves as the villain for most of the story. But despite serving up some ostentatious operatic histrionics, we don't get much information about their characters to get our teeth into, other than the broadest strokes. And that's a theme that continues throughout the movie.
It's not long before we jump forwards in time a little, and get introduced to Anne Hathaway's character. Hathaway plays Fantine, the mother of a girl called Cosette who plays a central role in the story of Les Miserables as a whole. Hathaway's performance of "I dreamed a dream" - a song reflecting Fantine's feelings when she reaches rock bottom in her life - is undeniably the standout turn of the movie, and deserving of the plaudits she won for the role. But what makes this performance so disappointing is that it comes within the opening half hour of the (two-and-a-half-hour-long) film, and also leads to the character's exit from the story, leaving everyone else constantly struggling to live up to such a belting showstopper.
In fact, the other characters frankly struggle to do anything else for the rest of the movie except wander around Paris looking incredibly po-faced and serious, recycling endless verses of song that only really serve to restate what we already know about them, never adding much depth beyond their basic character descriptions. It's a world away from the warmth and humanity of The King's Speech, the only other movie by Hooper that I've seen (and which I fully enjoyed). Crowe, in particular, seems slightly embarrassed even to be in this movie, doing that half-talking-half-singing thing that people do when they're not confident enough to commit to fully singing.
There's occasional respite from the ongoing dullness - for example, Sacha Baron Cohen and Helena Bonham Carter's performance of the rabble-rousing "Master of the House" raises a smile, and injects some much-needed energy into proceedings - but it's definitely the exception rather than the rule. In fact, things became so uninteresting to me that I eventually switched the movie off, half-an-hour before the end: something I very rarely do.
Don't assume from this review that I'm not a fan of musicals. I've thoroughly enjoyed stuff like Baz Luhrmann's Moulin Rouge, or even more traditional fare like Rob Marshall's adaptation of Chicago. But if you'll excuse the metaphor, Hooper's movie feels like it's preaching to the choir: pre-existing fans of Les Miserables as a stage musical will probably marvel at seeing it so fully realised on film, but newcomers like me may wonder what all the fuss is about.
What Tom Hooper achieved in bringing Les Misérables to the big screen will be remembered for decades to come.
It's the greatest musical I think I've ever seen, worthy of the three Oscars, three Golden Globes, and four BAFTAs that it won earlier this year. And having now seen it many times, both in the cinema and since its recent DVD/Blu-ray release, I can say that it really lives up to the repeat viewing that is a necessary trait of a five-star film.
We open in the early 19th Century. Jean Valjean (played by Hugh Jackman) is being released on parole by the prison guard, Javert (Russell Crowe), and Hooper introduces us to these characters fantastically. The scene is magnificent, with the water crashing down on Valjean and his fellow prisoners on an epic scale, and Javert standing tall above them. And thus begins the film with the powerful musical number, Look Down.
Almost a decade later, and Valjean has utterly transformed from the emaciated prisoner we first see - a transformation that saw Jackman drop over a stone in weight, and then gain a further two whilst filming. And it is here that we meet the tragedy-fated Fantine (Anne Hathaway), who loses her job at the factory owned by the now-successful Valjean.
Forced to sell her teeth, her hair, and ultimately her body, Fantine pours her heart out with the song, 'I Dreamed a Dream', and it is this heart-rending performance that I think won Anne Hathaway her Oscar. Because it is nothing less than perfect, and nothing less than incredible. The raw power of Hathaway's voice on this track is absolutely mesmerising, and it's that much more impressive knowing that, like every note throughout the film, it was sung live on the set.
In her greatest moment of desperation, she seeks out Valjean and entrusts him with the safety of her daughter, the young Cosette. All this and more takes place over the course of one of the most memorable first acts, with the film reaching greater and greater heights as it progresses towards its astounding final act.
Again, the film moves forward in time to a period of revolution in Paris, when the youth of the city a plotting a rebellion against the monarchy. It is here that we hear another of the original stage musical's iconic songs, 'Do You Hear The People Sing?' The original is a natural favourite amongst audiences, and the screen version is no different. The piece is one of the most rousing I can recall, serving brilliantly as a call to arms, and one which leads to the climactic Barricade scenes, pivotal to the film and to what I can't help but think will be its longstanding memory for years to come.
The young actors in Hooper's Les Misérables are every bit as impressive as the likes of Hathaway, Jackman, Crowe, and the hilarious duo of Helena Bonham Carter and Sacha Baron Cohen as the Thénardiers, whose rendition of 'Master of the House' is a side-splitting bag of laughs.
Amanda Seyfried has a wonderful voice and a delicate presence as the older Cosette. Eddie Redmayne is perfectly commanding as Marius.
Samantha Barks makes a fantastic debut as an actress (having starred in the stage musical), giving a flawless performance in her character's solo, 'On My Own'. Aaron Tveit is both charming and hot-headed as the politically-inclined revolutionary, Enjolras. And Daniel Huttlestone has a great blend of cheek and spirit as the young Gavroche.
Brilliantly cast from top to bottom, Hooper's Les Misérables is a masterful adaptation, and it's one that promises to revive the musical genre in cinema.
With the backing of a big budget behind him, Hooper is capable of bringing to life the big sequences from Victor Hugo's original 19th Century novel of the same name that simply isn't possible on the stage. The medium is so different - both to literature and to stage musicals - and it allows Hooper to bring together for audiences the best elements of each. The power of Hugo's words, the vibrancy of the musical's music, and the emotive intimacy and spectacle of film.
As I've said already, Les Misérables will not be soon forgotten. From the powerful opening to its climactic close, it is a tour de force of remarkable performances so rarely seen in films these days, worthy of every single award and nomination it's received in the past six months. The decision to have the actors and actresses sing live on set was an incredibly brave and bold one, and it truly pays off; the spontaneity brings a magic to the film unlike any film musical you have ever seen, or are ever likely to see in the years to come.
100% essential viewing.
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Please note this is a region 2 DVD and will require a region 2 (Europe) or region Free DVD Player in order to play. Set against the backdrop of 19th-century France, Les Misérables tells an enthralling story of broken dreams and unrequited love, passion, sacrifice and redemption- a timeless testament to the survival of the human spirit. Jackman plays ex-prisoner Jean Valjean, hunted for decades by the ruthless policeman Javert (Crowe) after he breaks parole. When Valjean agrees to care for factory worker Fantine's (Hathaway) young daughter, Cosette, their lives change forever. Featuring an incredible cast who give truly outstanding performances including: Hugh Jackman, Oscar winner Russell Crowe, Anne Hathaway, Amanda Seyfried, Eddie Redmayne, Aaron Tveit, Samantha Barks, and Helena Bonham Carter and Sacha Baron Cohen. Filmed by the visionary Academy-Award Director of The King's Speech, Tom Hooper. Actors: Hugh Jackman, Russell Crowe, Anne Hathaway, Amanda Seyfried Directors: Tom Hooper Language: English Subtitles: English, Icelandic Subtitles For The Hearing Impaired: English Audio Description: English Number of discs: 1
Tom Hooper directs this Academy Award-winning big-screen adaptation of the stage musical based on Victor Hugo's classic novel. Set in 19th-century France, the film tells the story of Jean Valjean (Hugh Jackman), a prisoner who breaks his parole and spends the next two decades fleeing from obsessive police inspector Javert (Russell Crowe). In his quest for personal redemption, Valjean adopts Cosette (Isabelle Allen/Amanda Seyfried), daughter of impoverished prostitute Fantine (Anne Hathaway), and is eventually elected as town mayor. But despite the events of the intervening years, can he ever really shake off his past? The ensemble supporting cast includes Helena Bonham Carter, Sacha Baron Cohen, Eddie Redmayne and Samantha Barks. Hathaway won the Academy Award, Golden Globe and BAFTA for her supporting performance. The film also won two additional Oscars and three BAFTAs, and received Golden Globe Awards for Best Motion Picture - Musical Or Comedy and Best Actor - Motion Picture Musical Or Comedy (Jackman).