The film version (certificate 12A, 158 mins) of Les Misérables, based on the hit stage musical of Victor Hugo’s novel set in 19th-century France, has arrived, and with its star-studded cast led by Hugh Jackman, Russell Crowe, and Anne Hathaway, it is sure to blow you away.
The film tells the story of Jean Valjean (Hugh Jackman), a man imprisoned for stealing bread to save his sister’s family from starving. Upon being released he breaks parole and is relentlessly pursued by lawman officer Javert (Russell Crowe), but he escapes pursuit and changes his identity, becoming a wealthy and well respected mayor and factory owner.
Jeav Valjean later encounters poor employee Fantine (Anne Hathaway), who has lost her job at his factory. Valjean makes a promise to her to bring up her daughter as his own.
The film is set in post-revolutionary France, and spans a period of 17 years set against the backdrop of a country in political turmoil, and culminating in the June Rebellion of France in 1832.
Directed by Tom Hooper, of The King’s Speech fame, the film featured all the singing recorded live on set, with actors listening to a pianist via earpieces, an unusual practice in musical cinema, and the result is staggering; the performers deliver raw emotion through their singing and every song is performed and acted with passion.
Hugh Jackman belts out every word and every note with force and puts in a fantastic performance as the films strong willed and kind hearted protagonist.
A stand out scene is in the first act when the Bishop of Digne takes in Valjean and forgives him for stealing silver, and offers it to him. Valjean is touched by the Bishops kindness and Jackman’s portrayal of an astonished and changing man is staggering.
Russell Crowe’s performance is stern and ferocious as Javert, and the scenes he shares with Jackman pack a punch and are consistently strong as the two men stand off against each other.
Sacha Baron Cohen and Helena Bonham Carter offer comic relief as the crooked innkeepers and work brilliantly together on screen, their performance of ‘Master of the House’ is funny and memorable.
Anne Hathaway stirs emotion as the destitute Fantine, her main number, ‘I Dreamed A Dream’, is strong. It is shot at extreme close up, and while praised by many, some may find it quite intense.
The dialogue is mostly sung, and there is very little spoken word. Stand out numbers include Look Down, One Day More, On My Own performed by Samantha Barks, and Do You Hear the People Sing?
Les Misérables is a triumph and though the heavy runtime (158 minutes) may be trying for some, it is an engaging and emotional story of a deserving and suffering underclass in 19th-century France.
A great start to a new year of film, and recommend for fans and non-fans of musicals alike.
Thanks to The Capitol, Horsham